Smith has endured a torrid time against a rejuvenated Australian side, led capably by Michael Clarke who, in stark contrast to Smith, managed to score a stunning 161 to set up the green and gold’s for a long-awaited series win in South Africa.
Alas for Smith – a combative, aggressive captain in the traditional South African mould – has only managed a meagre 42 runs through five innings in this series. Perhaps an indication that his powers have begun to fade.
Smith broke the news to his team-mates at the close of play on day three of the third Test at Cape Town Monday, releasing a statement that caught the cricketing fraternity off guard.
“This has been the most difficult decision I have ever had to make in my life,” he said in a statement.
“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 made his debut as an opener at Newlands more than a decade ago in 2002, also against Australia, making a hard-fought 68 in the combative style that would become his trademark.
It would have been a painful day for any captain to watch his side skittled cheaply on their home turf as Australia bowled out South Africa for 287, garnering a lead of 207, and added another 27 runs for no wicket before close of play.
Whatever is the outcome of the series, Smith will be regarded as one of the successful captains who holds the record for leading his side in 109 Tests out of the 117 caps.
Cricket South Africa CEO Haroon Lorgat paid rich tribute to Smith.
“Although Graeme’s decision to retire from all forms of international cricket comes as a surprise to all of us, we must respect him for deciding to call time,” he said.
“Knowing him as well as I do, having been instrumental as a selector in appointing him as a young captain, he would not have taken this decision lightly or without a great deal of thought.
“He has captained the Proteas for more than a decade and he will draw a lot more satisfaction from the fact that he leaves our Test team at the top of the world and in such good health rather than from all the personal records he has achieved as the longest-serving captain the game has ever seen in the demanding Test format.
“I would like us to remember Graeme for his nerves of steel and his match-winning performances that were synonymous with some of the most remarkable fourth innings victory chases of all time. These included setting up the 414 runs chase against Australia at Perth and his series-clinching innings at Edgbaston in 2008, not to mention the unbeaten century the last time he faced Australia at Newlands in 2011. His role in setting up the famous 438 win over Australia in 2006 was also a performance never to be forgotten.”