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Playing, playing, gone

Steven Lynch
January 24, 2012
Nasser Hussain: signed off by bringing up a century with the winning runs of a Lord's Test © Getty Images
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Stuart MacGill
The mercurial Australia legspinner MacGill actually announced his retirement mid-Test - during the second one against West Indies in Antigua in June 2008. MacGill had overslept and missed the team bus on the second day, for which he was fined by his team-mates, but that wasn't why he retired - he had realised that a succession of injuries had reduced his effectiveness. It was a disappointing end for MacGill, who had only just rid himself of the giant shadow of the retired Shane Warne, with whom he had competed for a place almost throughout his career. MacGill still took 208 Test wickets at 29.02, and recently - like Warne - made a good start to a playing comeback in Australia's 20-over Big Bash.

Nasser Hussain
Hussain called it a day after hitting the winning runs for England in the first Test against New Zealand at Lord's in 2004, a match in which Andrew Strauss announced his arrival with 112 in the first innings of his Test debut (and 83 in the second before Hussain ran him out). Strauss had played only because the regular captain, Michael Vaughan, had injured his knee, and Hussain knew someone would have to go when Vaughan was fit again: he decided it would be him, even though he was in sight of a century of Test caps (he finished with 96). Hussain said: "Age was catching up with me in my body and my mind, and the fire in my stomach was deteriorating. I was willing to fight that and the opposition, but not to fight against youth, in the form of Andrew Strauss and others."

Nathan Astle
Arguably New Zealand's best one-day batsman, Astle looked set for another tilt at the World Cup when he suddenly retired in the middle of the Australian one-day tri-series in January 2007. Astle, who also played 81 Tests, said: "I have been fighting this day for about eight months. I so desperately wanted to go to my fourth World Cup, but deep down inside I knew that I was lacking motivation and the enjoyment levels were just not there."

Muttiah Muralitharan
The great Sri Lanka offspinner set himself a stiff target by announcing, before the first Test against India in Galle in July 2010, that it would be his last one - this despite starting it with 792 wickets. That meant he needed eight to finish with 800, and everything looked on course when he took five in the first innings. But things proved harder when India batted again, and when the last pair came together, Murali was stuck on 799. Several agonising overs followed - during which the man himself narrowly missed a run-out that would have left him stranded forever, barring a change of heart - but finally Murali had Pragyan Ojha caught at slip. So he finished with a round 800 - and Sri Lanka went on to win the match. However, they have not won many since!

WG Grace
A 19th-century Ashes Test without Grace was almost unthinkable, and he played on until he was past 50. During the first Test against Australia at Trent Bridge in 1899, though, the great man's lack of mobility in the field was obvious: after some catcalls from the crowd, he was forced to admit that "the ground was getting too far away". After the match, he told his team-mate, the Hon FS Jackson, "It's all over Jacker, I shan't play again." And WG never did play another Test, although he continued in first-class cricket for several more years.

Tom Graveney
An unusual one this, in that Graveney's 79-Test career ended when he played in his own benefit match, on the rest day of the first Test against West Indies at Old Trafford in 1969. Graveney had been warned not to risk injury by taking part, but felt he had to show up and play, to reward those supporting him. Officially he only received a three-match ban - but Graveney, who turned 42 during the Test in question, knew he was effectively retiring, as he was unlikely to be asked to play for England again. And he wasn't.

Jack Gregory
Gregory was one of cricket's greatest stars immediately after the First World War - a high-stepping, ferociously fast bowler, and a big hitter, whose 70-minute century against South Africa in Johannesburg in November 1921 remains the fastest in Tests when assessed by time. "His skill and his power were as unpredictable as a thunderstorm or a nuclear explosion," enthused Neville Cardus in Wisden. By 1928-29, though, the power was waning a little, and it fizzled out entirely when Gregory badly injured his knee while bowling in the first Test against England, in Brisbane, which the tourists went on to win by the little matter of 675 runs. Knowing he could no longer bowl fast, Gregory retired.

Michael Vaughan
A sublime batsman to watch at his best, Vaughan captained England in 51 of his 82 Tests, including the unforgettable Ashes series of 2005. Despite a succession of chronic knee injuries, he was desperate for another crack at the Aussies in 2009, but gradually it became obvious that the joint was not up to the task. Vaughan admitted defeat in the middle of the 2008 season: "I wanted to give it one last hard effort to get into the Ashes squad," he lamented, "but I haven't been playing well enough and my body hasn't been holding up."

Anil Kumble
After 132 Tests for India, Kumble called it a day after the third of four Tests against Australia late in 2008. He'd already missed the second Test with a finger injury, and he picked up another one in his final match in Delhi, the venue of his ten-for in 1999. "The body was asking questions every day," said Kumble, who had just turned 38. "It was not easy to keep bowling the way I have been bowling the last 18 years, to keep going."

Damien Martyn, who retired midway through the 2006-07 Ashes, joins his other out-going team-mates at the end of the series in Sydney © Getty Images
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Damien Martyn
It took the stylish Western Australia batsman Martyn a long time to be forgiven for supposedly causing Australia's shock defeat against South Africa in Sydney in January 1994 with an irresponsible shot - it was only his seventh Test, and he didn't play another one for six years. His end was even more sudden: he disappeared from public view after the second Test of the 2006-07 Ashes tour - Australia's remarkable comeback win in Adelaide, which gave them a 2-0 series lead on the way to a stunning 5-0 whitewash - and shortly afterwards announced his retirement. "It's time for me to move aside," said Martyn, who had been in indifferent form. "I have enjoyed everything the game has given me. I have gained from it more than I could have ever imagined."

Shahid Afridi
It's rather difficult to keep track of all of Afridi's retirements, but he does seem to be firmly retired from Test cricket now. He actually called a halt in 2006, before being tempted back by the captaincy in England in 2010 - but that lasted only one match, a big defeat against Australia at Lord's, before Afridi retired again after a couple of irresponsible shots. "With my temperament I can't play Test cricket," he admitted. "A captain should lead by example, which I did not. And if I played the way I played in this match it is better to leave."

Steven Lynch is the editor of the Wisden Guide to International Cricket 2012.

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