There was no fairly tale ending for Ricky Ponting, who made 4 and 8 in his final Test match, much to the dismay of his fans. But fairy tale endings in cricket – defined here as a century for a batsman – are actually rare events.
Rarer still are the instances of great players going out on a high. The greatest of them all, Sir Donald Bradman, was famously bowled by Eric Hollies for a duck second ball. Rahul Dravid made 1 and 25 in Adelaide earlier this year. Sunil Gavaskar managed 96 on a devilish Bangalore wicket – no one on either side made more than 50 in the match – but India lost the match by 16 runs, and the series 1-0, souring his finale.
A few lucky players, however, have managed to give their fans one last golden memory. Here is a list of some of the more famous names who left their fans calling for more.
Chappell is the only player to score a hundred on his debut and in his last Test. He announced his retirement on the close of play on the second day of the final Test against Pakistan in a television interview with his brother Ian in 1984. With the decision out of the way, he stroked a majestic 182 that set-up Australia’s 10-wicket win over Pakistan. According to Wisden, the innings “summed up his career; it contained his full array of strokes, most notably his inimitable on-drive. During the innings Chappell also passed Bradman’s career total of 6,996 runs to become Australia’s then leading run-getter.
One of India’s finest batsmen of all time, Merchant was dogged by ill health and missed a number of tours as a result, restricting his Test career to just 10 matches. His retirement was forced by an injury to his shoulder caused by diving in the field, but not before he had made 154, his highest Test score against England in Delhi in 1951. It was his third Test hundred. He retired with a first-class average of 71, second only to Bradman.
Nurse did not just have a spectacular final Test, he had a spectacular final series. He did not establish himself in the West Indian side until he was 32 and was only 35 when he traveled to New Zealand in 1969. On that tour, he scored 558 runs in three Tests at an average of 111.60. In the final Test, no one else apart from Joey Carew passed 30 but Nurse scored 258, comfortably his highest Test score. He began the series with a Test average of 40. He ended it with an average of 47.
There have been only five players who have scored a double-century in their last match and Ponsford is one of them. A prodigious scorer in domestic cricket – he averaged 65 – Ponsford never quite reached those same heights consistently in Test, but was good enough to average 48 with seven hundreds from 29 matches. With the Ashes locked at 1-1 going into the decider at the Oval in 1934, Ponsford and Bradman added 451 for the second wicket to set-up Australia’s crushing 562-run victory to seal the series. Ponsford was finally out hit wicket for 266, having batted for seven hours and 40 minutes. It was a fitting finale to an excellent series in which Ponsford amassed 569 runs at an average of 94.83.
Aravinda de Silva
This one comes with an asterisk because it was against the 2002 version of Bangladesh, but that’s not de Silva’s fault. Arguably one of Sri Lanka’s best ever batsmen, and devastating on his day, de Silva took advantage of some weak bowling to make the second double-century of his career. The runs came at a fair clip too, he needed just 234 balls and struck 28 fours and a six for his 206.