With his side on the ropes after day three and odds on to lose the series barring a miracle or a marathon batting effort from them, Smith’s decided to pull the pin aged just 33.
Despite his relative youth for the voluntary retirement of an international player, Smith has played an epic 347 times in all forms for South Africa.
Even more remarkably he’s been captain of his national team since 2003.
Apart from the result, his home town of Cape Town seems as good a place as any to wrap it up.
The opening batsman with commitment to Surrey’s county set-up told his side after a day in which they were bowled out and Australia had built a lead of 234 runs with all wickets in hand.
“This has been the most difficult decision I have ever had to make in my life,” said Smith, the time of whose last innings will be decided by his opposing captain Michael Clarke, who might of enjoyed a chance to celebrate his side’s potentially momentous victory over the number one Test nation in the world on their home turf.
Nevertheless, there will be no shortage of tributes and respect for Smith, the most-capped Test captain in history whose 116 Tests have seen him average a not too shabby 48.72.
“It’s a decision that I have been considering since my ankle surgery in April last year,” he said of the surgery that forced him to miss the county season with Surrey and the Oval-based side to call in Ricky Ponting.
“I have a young family to consider, and I felt that retiring at Newlands would be the best way to end it because I have called this place home since I was 18 years old.”
Smith’s international career will end with a disastrous series if he fails again on day four of this third and deciding Test. He’s averaged just 8.4 runs as the Aussie quicks have dominated him.
His decision means he won’t lead South Africa at the ODI World Cup in Australia and New Zealand next year – a tournament that along with winning a home series against Australia he won’t have the pleasure of claiming.
Smith’s likely successor will be AB de Villiers, the vice-captain and wicket keeper who’s also the top-ranked batsman in the world, or the T20 skipper, Faf du Plessis. It might be no coincidence the two are the Proteas’ best-performed players of the series.
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