The winner

Ricky Ponting retires, snapping the last link with the golden era of Australian cricket

Across cricket history, only 10 players have been part of 70 or more Test wins, of which eight are Australians. At one point, all eight were part of the same team. Now, one of them, Ricky Ponting, the longest-serving representative of that era of Australian invincibility, has announced that the Perth Test against South Africa will be his last. A win would take his personal count to 109 victories. It would also take Australia back to number one in the Test rankings. Ponting would love that. With the bat, no one did more to establish Australia at the top of the rankings and to keep it there, year after year. Ponting crossed 1,000 runs in a calendar year five times between 2002 and 2008; from 2002 to 2006, he averaged a jaw-dropping 72.25.

Last week, Ponting watched his successor as captain, Michael Clarke, score his fourth double century of the year and his second in two Tests. It would have taken him back to December 2003, when he followed 242 at Adelaide with 257 at Melbourne to join Don Bradman with three double tons in one year. That series also elevated Rahul Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman to the ranks of the modern greats. All three players have ended their Test careers in the same year. In fact, the careers of Ponting and Dravid have been particularly intertwined. Ponting scored 96 and 71 in his first two Test innings, in December 1995; six months later, Dravid began with scores of 95 and 84. Both, in time, came to occupy the number three slot and define it in entirely different ways.

Both enjoyed one last burst of run-scoring Dravid against England, Ponting against India before retiring. With Ponting's exit, the last survivors from the 1990s Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Jacques Kallis, Sachin Tendulkar will have felt a twinge of mortality.

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