PERTH — South Africa were closing in on a series-clinching victory over Australia at tea on the fourth day of the third Test on Monday, having ended Ricky Ponting’s international career in an anticlimax.
Australia, chasing an improbable 632 for victory, were 204/7 after the first two sessions, with John Hastings (two) and Mitchell Johnson (three) fighting a desperate rearguard action.
The loss of David Warner for 29 and Shane Watson for 25 in the morning session had brought Ponting to the crease for his 287th and final Test innings before retirement.
Welcomed onto the field by a guard of honour of applauding South Africans, the 37-year-old lasted just 40 minutes and 23 balls before the same players were shaking his hand as he headed back to the pavilion with eight runs to his name.
Two fours, the first a vintage pull, closed his Test tally at 13,378 runs at an average of 51.85 from 168 matches — the second-highest run count in the long history of the game.
South African spinner Robin Peterson will go down in the record books as the last bowler to dismiss the batting great, tempting Ponting into an attempted cut which ended up as an edge into the hands of Jacques Kallis in the slips.
The former Australian captain took off his helmet and raised his arms to accept the applause of the crowd before departing the field where he made his Test debut 17 years ago.
South Africa had begun well in their quest to bring a swift conclusion to the hosts’ innings and secure successive series triumphs in Australia.
Opener Warner lasted just two deliveries in the bright morning sunshine before he edged the ball to Graeme Smith in the slips off the bowling of Vernon Philander.
Watson was the next to depart with Smith again taking the catch after Morne Morkel softened the all rounder up with some short bowling.
Ed Cowan outlasted Ponting and had just reached his half century when he fell for 53, leaving Michael Clarke and Mike Hussey to try and build the sort of partnership they enjoyed when Australia were in the ascendancy in the first two Tests.
It was not to be as Clarke (44) was stumped charging down the wicket to Peterson (3/67) with Hussey (26) and Matthew Wade (10) soon following him back to the dressing room.