From Chappell to McCullum: Five perfect farewells
Greg Chappell v Pakistan, 1984
An under-current of unrest in Australia's ranks could not, in the end, detract from the majesty of Greg Chappell's farewell at the SCG. Unusually his announcement came midway through the fifth Test against Pakistan, and came at a time when he was both 68 runs shy of over-hauling Don Bradman's runs record for Australia, having just matched Colin Cowdrey's world-record tally of 120 outfield catches. The timing was bemusing, too, to Dennis Lillee, who had told Chappell of his own intentions to retire before the game, but hadn't yet gone public with the news. Undaunted by the sudden attention, including a standing ovation to launch his final innings, Chappell finished the third day of the Test on 79 not out, and marched on relentlessly to 182 the following day, making him the third Australian, after Reggie Duff and Bill Ponsford, to score hundreds in his first and last Test. Two more second-innings catches knocked Cowdrey off his perch too. At the end of the game, Rodney Marsh joined Australia's raft of retirements, stating he wouldn't be going on tour to the Caribbean because "all his mates had gone".
Nasser Hussain v New Zealand, Lord's 2004
After dragging his team's standards up by their boot-laces in four tenacious years as Test captain, England's elder statesman had been looking increasingly out of place in a young and dynamic new dressing-room. And when at Lord's in the first Test of the 2004 summer, he managed to deny the latest of those young guns, Andrew Strauss, his second century on debut with a disastrous (and familiar) run-out, the doubts about his role were merely amplified. So Hussain, in typically bloodyminded fashion, took matters into his own hands. After knuckling down to break the back of England's chase of 282, he sealed the deal in fairytale fashion - a brace of flogged drives through the covers, first to bring up his final Test century and then to complete a seven-wicket win. He knew, in that instant, that he couldn't have scripted a more perfect goodbye, and he confirmed his retirement soon afterwards to spare England's selectors any awkward discussions.
Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne, Justin Langer v England, Sydney 2006-07
Twenty-two years on from that first triple farewell, another trio of Australian legends chose the SCG as their moment to bow out of the game, but they did so in a more orchestrated and glorious fashion. After securing the return of the Ashes at Perth, Shane Warne had started the exodus of legends by confirming his retirement on the eve of the Boxing Day Test at his home ground of Melbourne, where he once again wrote his own script with a first-day five-for to set up a 4-0 series lead. Glenn McGrath then confirmed that he too had seen enough, and when Justin Langer joined suit, the prospect of a 5-0 Ashes whitewash was deemed inevitable by such a towering weight of sentiment. The match was an Australia love-in par excellence, and for McGrath and Langer, it was especially fitting. McGrath claimed a wicket with the final ball of his career (James Anderson, in fact, the man who may soon surpass his tally) to bowl England out in their second innings, before Langer was left unbeaten in a ten-wicket win, united at the last with his greatest of mates, Matthew Hayden.
Muttiah Muralitharan v India, Galle 2010
Sri Lanka's champion spinner went into the final match of his career needing eight more wickets to reach 800 in Tests - a tall order even for the most prolific wicket-taker of all time, but eminently plausible on a ground where he had already harvested 103 scalps in his previous 14 appearances. When the whole of the second day was lost to rain - with Sri Lanka still midway through a hefty first innings of 520 for 8 declared - the prospect seemed to have regressed a touch. But then the magic started to happen again. Five first-innings wickets helped to skittle India for 276, and after a slow start in the follow-on, the rapid scalps of Yuvraj and Harbhajan Singh left India listing at 197 for 7 as the whole of Sri Lanka crowded round for the kill. But they were kept on tenterhooks for 23 wicketless overs in an exquisite battle of wills, as VVS Laxman rallied India's tail to secure a slender lead. When Laxman himself was ninth out to a run-out, it all came down to one final opportunity. And sure enough, after two more near run-outs off his own bowling, Pragyan Ojha slashed one last drive to slip to secure a landmark that will never be matched.
Brendon McCullum v Australia, Christchurch 2015-16
After an ever-present Test career spanning 101 appearances, Brendon McCullum rocked up at Hagley Oval in Christchurch for his last hurrah against his arch-opponents, and promptly lost the toss on a stereotypically lively deck. New Zealand were pinned to the ropes at 32 for 3 when he strode out to bat in his final Test appearance, but in keeping with the same pedal-to-the-metal approach that had driven his side all the way to the World Cup final, McCullum decreed that there would be no backwards step. After a guard of honour from Steve Smith's Australians, his first shot pinged over the slips for four, and set the tone for an extraordinary onslaught. Viv Richards' 56-ball century had been challenged on numerous occasions in a turbo-charged era for batting, and Misbah-ul-Haq had even equalled it against the Aussies in November 2014, but with a fusillade of 16 fours and four sixes in 54 balls, he lowered the bar by two. The record was shredded in a four-ball flurry: a top-edge for six, a slog for four through midwicket; a top-edge for four, a flog for four through the covers. Australia would recover their poise to win the game, but not for the first time, McCullum's derring-do had stolen the hearts.