Matthew Bell has spent more than half his life playing first-class cricket.
So it is no surprise he was a little misty eyed when he announced his retirement to his Wellington team-mates in the bowels of the Basin Reserve.
The former New Zealand test opener and Wellington captain called time yesterday on a 17-year career that began in 1993-94, when he became the youngest Northern Districts player to appear in a first-class match.
He will be remembered for his intense work ethic, some unusual batting stances, and the inability to transfer an excellent domestic record to the international stage.
Bell is the only New Zealand batsman to twice score 1000 first-class runs in a season and is Wellington's all-time leading run-scorer with 6565.
But there is no hesitation when asked what he will miss most about the game.
"The camaraderie. It was pretty emotional telling the guys in the changing room, realising that I won't be rocking up to practice or to games any more," he said.
"There's been a lot of emotion, a lot of good and bad times that we've shared."
Bell, who played 18 tests without ever cementing his place, said retirement had been in the back of his mind since the disappointment of being dropped from the national side in 2008.
"And recently niggling injuries have limited my game time and haven't enabled me to train or play at my best."
Bell grew up in Northland and became something of a batting prodigy, making an under-14 representative side as a 10-year-old.
"So I haven't had too many summer holidays. I think there was only one, when I missed out on a tournament team and I enjoyed that. We went to the Coromandel for a camping trip with the family but apart from that it has been all cricket-oriented."
Bell plans to study at the NZ School of Massage while plugging away with his personal training and coaching business.
But he will first enjoy some rare summer time off with his wife, Nicky, and reflect on the highs and lows of his career.
Hitting the winning runs in New Zealand's first test victory over England at Lord's in 1999 stands out. "That is something that I cherish dearly. Just being a boy from up in Northland, those accomplishments are something I never dreamed of achieving."
Cricket Wellington chief executive Gavin Larsen led the tributes.
"Matthew's retirement sees one of the great Wellington cricket careers draw to a close," Larsen said yesterday.
AT A GLANCE
Name: Matthew David Bell
Born: February 25, 1977, in Dunedin
Teams: New Zealand, Northern Districts, Wellington
Role: Right-hand batsman
Batting record: 729 runs from 18 tests at 24.3, highest score of 107; 133 runs from seven ODIs at 19, highest score of 66; 9881 runs from 171 first-class games at 35.93, highest score of 265.
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