This wasn't how it was supposed to end. But with his dodgy finger keeping him out of the Sydney Test, Ricky Ponting's test epitaph could well be the cataclysmic Boxing Day defeat in Melbourne and consequent meek surrender of the Ashes.
The best Australian batsman since Bradman has potentially gone out on the sourest of notes - Australia's largest home Ashes defeat since 1912, two patchy innings that demonstrated that as a batsman he is a shadow of his former self and worse of all the unseemly sight of arguing with the match officials like the most odious of Premiership footballers.
It just goes to show that cricket does not always allow its greats to take their curtain call with the crowd begging for an encore. Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne and Justin Langer had the most glorious of departures from test cricket at Sydney in 2007. Steve Waugh and Adam Gilchrist were able to bid similarly fond farewells. But Ponting's end - if it is the end and Australia's selectors will surely look to rebuild now - could not be more different.
He still has the World Cup to come and after leading Australia to the 2003 and 2007 winners enclosure without even one solitary defeat, Ponting will be confident of leaving a more fitting epitaph to a wonderful career. But in all likelihood, Australia look fated to bomb badly in the subcontinent and Ponting is unlikely even to get the consolation prize of another World Cup.
The mode of departure will fade and the memory of Ponting as one of the three batting princes of modern times will live on. But he is likely to be equally remembered as the first Australian captain to lead three unsuccessful Ashes attempts since Billy Murdoch in the time of Queen Victoria - perhaps it is apt then that a 152 test career with 12,363 runs at 53.51 and 39 centuries has probably ended in the state that bears the former monarch's name.
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