Faf du Plessis, the last survivor of South African cricket’s golden age in Test cricket, announced on Wednesday that he had retired from Test matches with immediate effect.
Du Plessis, 36, said in a statement on his Instagram account that he would continue to be available for one-day and Twenty20 internationals.
"The next two years are ICC T20 World Cup years. Because of this, my focus is shifting to this format and I want to play as much of it as possible around the world so that I can be the best player I can possibly be," he said.
"I strongly believe that I have a lot to offer to the Proteas in this format."
Du Plessis said he would be having discussions about his future with Cricket South Africa in the next few months.
"My heart is clear and the time is right to walk into a new chapter," he said.
"It has been an honour to play for my country in all the formats of the game, but the time has come for me to retire from Test cricket."
He captained South Africa in 36 of his 69 Test matches, winning 18 and losing 15.
South Africa were already ranked as the number one team in Test cricket when Du Plessis made his debut in the second Test against Australia in Adelaide in 2012.
He was playing alongside some of South Africa’s greatest players, including Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel.
But it was his man of the match performance that set up a second successive series win in Australia for the Proteas.
After making 78 in the first innings, Du Plessis batted for more than seven-and-a-half hours and faced 376 balls in the second innings, scoring 110 not out and enabling South Africa to escape with a draw.
He made another half-century as South Africa won the next Test in Perth to clinch the series.
Du Plessis went on to score 4,163 runs in Test matches at an average of 40.02.
He hit ten centuries and made his highest score of 199 against Sri Lanka on his home ground at Centurion Park last December.
- Twenty20 focus -
He succeeded AB de Villiers as Test captain in 2016, initially on a temporary basis, and enjoyed significant early success, leading South Africa to victory in seven of his first eight series in charge, including away and home series against Australia.
With a team weakened by retirements and natural attrition, the latter stages of his captaincy were less successful as South Africa lost away and at home against Sri Lanka and were well beaten in a home series against England.
He resigned as captain across all formats last February following the England series, but continued to be available as a player.
The Covid-19 pandemic drastically reduced South Africa’s playing programme and he played in only four more Tests –- the home series against Sri Lanka in December and January and two recent Tests in Pakistan.
Despite stating his determination to be part of the next two Twenty20 World Cups, in India this year and Australia next year, Du Plessis will not be playing in a domestic Twenty20 tournament starting on Friday.
But his statement indicated that he will be seeking to play in some of the major Twenty20 leagues in the world, including the Pakistan Super League this month and the Indian Premier League in April.