Australian opener Matthew Hayden has retired after a 17-year first-class career and 103 Test matches.
|An emotional Matthew Hayden announcing his retirement [GALLO/GETTY]
The 37-year-old Hayden was dropped last week from Australia's Twenty20 and limited-overs squads, but selectors said they would consider the country's most successful opening batsman for upcoming Test tours to South Africa and the Ashes series in England.
But an often emotional Hayden, who is sixth on the all-time list of Test century makers with 30 hundreds, put an end to any further selection speculation with his retirement decision.
"This is a decision that I have not taken lightly and I am here after much thought, consideration and discussion with my family and close friends," Hayden said during a news conference at his home ground, The Gabba.
"It is ultimately my decision and I know that now is the time to move on to the next stage of my life and career.
He averaged just over 19 runs - his career average tops 50 per innings - during Australia's 2-1 series loss to South Africa this month.
It was Australia's first home series loss in 16 years.
"I have loved so much playing cricket, and I count it as so much of an honour to have represented my country," Hayden read from a prepared statement.
"I know that now is the time to move on.
"I've lived the dream of every kid who has ever picked up a bat and ball and wanted to wear the baggy green (Australian Test cap)."
Time to go
|Hayden will spend more time with his family [GALLO/GETTY]
Hayden insisted he could have played in Australia's Ashes defence in six months.
"I had absolutely zero fear of my position within the cricket team," Hayden said.
"I believe I would be going on that (Ashes) tour and fulfilling that dream - this is the point where I want to step off."
Hayden, a burly and aggressive left-hander renowned for getting on top of bowling attacks early in his innings, said he had many things he wanted to focus on in life after cricket.
"I am retiring from cricket, not from life, there is still so much that I want to achieve and contribute to the community," Hayden said, adding that time with his family, cooking, fishing and spending time outdoors were among the passions he wanted to pursue.
Hayden's 39 at the Sydney Cricket Ground last week against South Africa was his highest score in his last five Tests.
Since returning from an Achilles injury which ruled him out of the West Indies tour in May, Hayden has scored 383 runs at an average of 23.93 in his last nine Tests compared with his overall record of 8,625 runs at 50.73.
He went 17 innings without a century, his longest stretch in a career that started slowly with only seven Tests from his debut in 1993-94 in South Africa until it took off in 2000, when he cemented his combination with Justin Langer at the top of the order.
During the last year, selectors persevered with Hayden because of his experience for a team in transition following the retirements of Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist, Langer and Damien Martyn in the last two seasons.
He briefly held the world record for the highest Test score - his 380 against Zimbabwe at Perth in 2003 - until ex-West Indies skipper Brian Lara reclaimed the mark with 400.
Hayden's wife Kellie gave a strong indication that the January 3-7 Sydney Test would be her husband's last when she stood and emotionally applauded him off the ground at the SCG.
Hayden played 161 limited-overs internationals for Australia, scoring 6,133 at an average of 43.80 and playing in two World Cup-winning squads.
He was the International Cricket Council's ODI player of the year in 2007 and the Australian one-day player of the year in 2008.
In limited-overs internationals, he hit 10 centuries and 36 half centuries with a top score of 181 not out.
|Hayden celebrates reaching 376 against Zimbabwe in 2003 in Perth [GALLO/GETTY]
Former teammates praised Hayden.
"He's been a wonderful player for Australia for a long period of time," retired star spin bowler Warne said.
"I think his aura, the way he imposed himself on the competition whether it was Twenty20s, one-dayers or Test cricket, that will be missed by the Australian team, that's for sure."
Former Test opener Michael Slater added: "I was lucky enough to open the batting with him for a number of Test matches.
"And the things that I will always remember about Matty Hayden was the character he showed right the way through not only an innings but right the way through his career.
"When you thought he was down and out, he proved time and time again that he was a great player."
Retired fast bowler McGrath said the Queensland veteran had nothing left to prove.
"It's been an absolute honour and a privilege to play with him and even more so to call him a mate," said McGrath, who holds the Test record for most Test wickets by a paceman.
"And to me Matty is a legend of the game; he's got nothing left to prove."
Hayden has actively helped the McGrath Foundation in its campaign to raise awareness of breast cancer, the disease which claimed the life of McGrath's wife Jane last year.
Former Australian batsman Mark Waugh said his ex-teammate made the right decision.
"While it's very disappointing we won't see him again in Australian colours, it's a good time to reflect on how good a player he was," Waugh said.
"I don't want to see him struggle the way he's been struggling the last six months.
"He's done it at the right time ..."