JOHANNESBURG Veteran South Africa wicketkeeper Mark Boucher announced his retirement from international cricket on Tuesday after undergoing eye surgery following a severe injury this week.
Boucher suffered a laceration to his left eyeball after being struck by a bail during his country's tour match against English county side Somerset in Taunton on Monday.
"It is with sadness, and in some pain, that I make this announcement. Due to the severity of my eye injury, I will not be able to play international cricket again," Boucher said in a statement read out by team captain Graeme Smith and posted on Cricket South Africa's website.
"I had never anticipated announcing my retirement now, but circumstances have dictated differently."
Boucher suffered the freakish injury when he was keeping wicket to leg-spinner Imran Tahir on Monday during a warm-up match for the three-match test series against England.
A spinning delivery dislodged the wooden bail which then flew into the face of the 35-year-old, who was forced to leave the field with blood coming from his eye.
He had eye surgery a few hours later.
"For now I would like to thank the huge number of people, many of whom are strangers, for their heartfelt support during the past 24 hours," Boucher said.
"I am deeply touched by all the well wishes. I wish the team well in the UK, as I head home and onto a road of uncertain recovery."
Graeme Smith, South Africa's captain, described Boucher as a "warrior".
"The fighting spirit you brought to team remains with us," he said. "We wish you a good as possible recovery from your injury. As we bid you a farewell as an international cricketer and wish you well for your future, we keep you as a friend and respected Proteas warrior."
Boucher made his test debut in 1997 and played 147 tests for South Africa, becoming the first wicketkeeper to take 500 catches in test cricket. He ended with 555 dismissals.
An accomplished right-handed middle-order batsman, he also scored five test centuries and averaged 30.
(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; writing by Martyn Herman, editing by Alan Baldwin)