Ponting goes quietly in final innings

Ricky Ponting's final innings for Australia ended in disappointment as he managed just eight on the fourth morning of the third Test against South Africa as the tourists closed on victory.

Having announced his retirement prior to the match, he mustered just four in the first innings and fared little better in his last hurrah, thick-edging Robin Peterson to slip three balls before the lunch break.

The Proteas, well on the way to a series-clinching victory after reducing the hosts to 204 for seven at tea in pursuit of an unlikely 632 at Perth, welcomed Ponting to the crease with a respectful guard of honour but there was to be no fitting finale for the second highest run-scorer in Test history.

Australia resumed the morning on 40 without loss but suffered a poor start when dangerous opener David Warner was dismissed by the second ball of the day for his overnight score of 29.

Vernon Philander was responsible, sending down a fine delivery that would have threatened off stump had Warner not nicked it to Graeme Smith at first slip. Ed Cowan hit the first four three balls later but the aim of the day was defence and consolidation as Philander and Dale Steyn sent down a testing opening spell.

Number three Shane Watson hit his 12th ball for four, while the circumspect Cowan put away a Steyn full-toss for his second boundary. Watson found the ropes in three consecutive overs but he was next out for 25 when Morne Morkel squared him up and found the edge to offer Smith a second catch.

That brought Ponting to the crease for the final time and, as well as a warm ovation from the stands, the opposition lined up to form a guard of honour to the wicket. Ponting stopped to shake hands with Proteas skipper Smith and, after Cowan stole some of the spotlight with a six off Peterson, got off the mark by pulling his sixth delivery for four.

Luck seemed to be on the 37-year-old's side when he was gifted a second boundary, Morkel mis-fielding at mid-on, but that proved his last scoring shot. Left-arm spinner Peterson got one to bite and bounce outside off stump and Ponting mis-hit an unwise cut straight to the alert Jacques Kallis.

The Proteas clamoured to shake his hand as he departed to plentiful applause before his successor as Australia skipper, Michael Clarke, struck the last two balls of the session for four. AB De Villiers was involved in the next two wickets, stumping Clarke off Peterson for 44 and then catching Michael Hussey off Steyn for 26.

With Matthew Wade joined by all-rounder John Hastings with the home side on 198 for six South Africa were on the verge of an impressive win. Wade went for 10, caught by Smith at short midwicket when he mistimed a Peterson delivery. Australia ended the session on 204 for seven, with Hastings (2) and Mitchell Johnson (3) battling against the inevitable.

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