Ricky Ponting admitted he was relieved to bow out in style after the former Australia captain hit 169 not out for Surrey in his final first-class innings against Nottinghamshire on Thursday.
Ponting had moved from his overnight 41 to 108 by lunch on the final day of the County Championship First Division match at the Oval and he remained unbeaten throughout his seven-hour, 319-ball innings, which included 18 fours, to help Surrey rescue a draw.
The 38-year-old, who retired from international cricket in December 2012 with a Test average of 51.85, had reached the landmark of 24,000 first-class runs at the start of his second innings on Wednesday.
And, after being dismissed for just 29 in the first innings, Ponting made the most of his final chance, reaching three figures by charging down the pitch to spinner Samit Patel and smashing a four.
That took him past Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar and Mark Waugh in the all-time list of first-class hundred makers to join current Australia coach Darren Lehmann on 82.
It was a fitting finale for Ponting and he conceded it would have been an anti-climax to finish his legendary career, which included 168 Tests and 375 one-day international appearances, with a low score.
"If I'd have failed in this innings then it would have been a really disappointing way to finish," he said.
"To tell you the truth I haven't really thought about this being it. I've been pretty zoned in and focused on what I've had to do for Surrey.
"It wasn't until (Surrey's) Gareth Batty talked to the boys about my career being over that I've had a chance to sit back and take my white pads off, put them over there and think that's the last time I'll be wearing them."
Now Ponting will play Twenty20 with Surrey and then head for the Caribbean Premier League before retiring from all forms of cricket in October.
He will return to Australia where he plans to commentate for Network Ten on the Big Bash League as well as pursuing business interests.
But, with Australia's batsmen struggling to shine in the first Ashes Test against England at Trent Bridge this week, it was inevitable Ponting would be asked if his superb display would make him reconsider his decision to retire.
"Look there's no doubt I could continue to play and continue to play well," Ponting said.
"Saying that, I've really enjoyed the time I had here with Surrey and my intentions were not to retire when I first came, it is just that opportunities have opened up back home off the field.
"First-class cricket is over for me now. As much as I enjoy it and as much as I know I can keep playing, there's other things I have to look after in my personal life. It's been 21 years now.
"A lot of that time has been away from home. It'll just be nice to live life as a father and as a parent.
"I'll stay involved with the game. I love the game too much and love competing."
The farewell innings lifted his first-class run tally to 24,150 runs at an average of 55.90 in 289 appearances.
Cricket Australia tweeted their congratulations to their former skipper: "Massive congratulations to Ricky Ponting for scoring a century in his final FC innings. A true champion of the game!"
The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia
First Posted 11 July, 2013 11:19PM AEST