Kevin Pietersen was among the first to pay tribute to Ricky Ponting's wonderful career after the former Australia captain this morning announced he is to retire from Test cricket.

The former Hampshire batsmabn, currently on tour with England in India, made his own Test debut against Ponting's Australia in the 2005 Ashes - a series which culminated in a famous home victory.

That was to be the first of three Ashes series Ponting would lose as captain, two in England and one in Australia - and now at the age of 37, the Tasmanian has accepted he will not do battle for the urn again after all.

Pietersen announced himself with a swashbuckling hundred as England claimed the Ashes for the first time in a generation seven years ago.

He voiced his admiration for Ponting on Twitter, signing off with the hashtag #legend to describe the great number three batsman. "Ricky Ponting RETIRES.... ONE OF THE GREATS!" Pietersen wrote.

"I always got excited playing AUS, so I could watch him bat up close. Well done Punter!"

Ponting will call time on his 17-year international career after the forthcoming Perth Test against South Africa, and will therefore never again face England - against whom Australia will play 10 Ashes Tests in home and away series in 2013 and early 2014.

England wicketkeeper Matt Prior was quick to follow Pietersen's lead, with his own tribute to Ponting - also on Twitter.

"Congrats to Ricky ponting on an amazing career," he said.

"One of, if not the, best batsmen I've ever played against and fierce opponent!"

Michael Clarke, Australia's current Test and one-day international captain and Ponting's immediate successor, was taken aback by the veteran's decision to retire - even though it comes after a worrying loss of form at the highest level.

"I didn't have a feeling it was coming," said the former Hampshire overseas player.

"Ricky spoke to me after [the second Test against South Africa in] Adelaide and obviously made his decision over the last few days.

"The boys are obviously hurting right now. He's been an amazing player for a long time." Ponting's retirement will have no detrimental effect on Australia's preparations to face South Africa in Perth, however.

"It will only give us more inspiration," added an emotional Clarke, who has played his entire Test career with Ponting as a senior guiding force in the team.