The curtain fell on Ricky Ponting's first-class career at just before five o'clock at The Oval. Twenty-one years, 289 matches and 24,150 runs have passed since his 17-year-old self first walked to the crease for Tasmania.
Ponting's debut ended in defeat. Today he went marginally better and single-handedly earned Surrey a draw against Nottinghamshire. Strictly speaking, Ricky Ponting's cricket career in white clothing will never end. Notts could have bowled to him until the end of the back-to-back Ashes and still not have dismissed the legendary Australian.
As it was, Ponting marched off into the south London sun with 169 unbeaten runs to his name, looking forward to "a few beers tonight". Australia were almost able to raise a bottle to a famous double. Ashton Agar wasn't even a foetus when Ponting made his debut but Australia's No 11 came within two runs of scoring his maiden first-class century on the day that his legendary compatriot scored his 82nd and final one.
We may never see Ponting's like again. He is certain we will never see him again, at least in whites. "First class cricket is over for me," he confirmed after rescuing his adopted county. "As much as I enjoy it and as much as I know I can keep playing there are other things I need to look after now. On a personal note, it's nice to finish knowing you can still play. Unfortunately it couldn't have been in a winning team but playing like I did in this innings makes it a little bit better."
After losing Arun Harinath, Zander de Bruyn and Steven Davies within the first 45 minutes, Surrey were effectively 6 for 5. Ponting's batting partner was Zafar Ansari, whose batting average is yet to reach his 21 years. They combined for 98 runs but Surrey suffered another three-wicket collapse to leave them eight down and with a lead of just 124 but with 40 overs still to play.
Ponting refused to panic. By the time he reached another milestone, the game was safe. He raised his 150 with an all-run four, an outstanding achievement for a 38-year-old who batted for two minutes shy of seven hours but then that is Ponting from his first until his last.
His first appearance came on 22 November 1992, when the 17-year-old Ponting made 56 on debut for Tasmania at the Adelaide Oval. Six matches later, he scored his maiden first-class century at the Sydney Cricket Ground. The opposition that day featured two other future Test stars who would go on to become legends in Glenn McGrath and Adam Gilchrist. They were loyal lieutenants to Ponting and it is only fitting that his first-class career should outlive theirs.
It is also fitting that his last should prove heroic, heroic at least in relation to Surrey's season and the match situation itself. His contribution here means he finishes his Surrey career with 493 runs at an average of 123.25. Remarkable figures for a remarkable cricketer.