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Ponting finishes on a low note

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Ricky Ponting's final innings for Australia ended in disappointment as South Africa cruised to a 309-run win inside four days at Perth that ensured they remained top of the ICC Test rankings.

The encounter was effectively acting as a final, with both sides knowing they could seal a 1-0 series win and move to the summit with victory.

It being Ponting's farewell appearance - at the ground where his glittering Test career started just five days shy of 17 years ago - merely added to the theatre at the WACA.

But there was to be no grand send-off for the former Australia skipper, who mustered just eight as his side crumbled to 322 all out in pursuit of 632.

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

David Warner, Ricky Ponting & Michael Clarke

David Warner, left, and Michael Clarke, right, carry the retiring Ricky Ponting, centre, around the WACA following their third-Test defeat

South Africa welcomed Ponting to the crease with a respectful guard of honour, yet a fitting finale did not ensue for the second highest run-scorer in Test history.

Australia resumed this morning on 40 without loss but suffered an awful 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 day’s first four three balls later but the aim was defence and consolidation as Philander and Dale Steyn bowled a testing opening spell.

Number three Shane Watson found the ropes in three consecutive overs but he was next out for 25 when Morne Morkel squared him up and took the edge to offer Smith a second catch.

That brought in Ponting, who 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 as left-arm spinner Peterson made the breakthrough.

The Proteas clamoured to shake Ponting's 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.

The new leader impressed, continuing his sensational rubber with the bat en route to a fluent 44. However, he was eventually stumped off Peterson by AB de Villiers, who then held the catch as Mike Hussey edged Steyn for 26.

At that stage, Australia's hopes had all but ended and, despite number 10 Mitchell Starc delivering an unlikely 64-delivery 68 not out, the Proteas eased home.

Peterson had Matthew Wade caught at slip, Mitchell Johnson edged Philander behind, John Hastings was taken in the cordon off Morkel and Nathan Lyon was held by Smith - Steyn the bowler to wrap things up.