Flower's time is up, England need a fresh approach
It is a simply a question of 'when' not 'if' now. England's defeat in Melbourne - and the manner of it - has rendered Andy Flower's position as coach all-but untenable.
Flower has done a magnificent job. Appointed with the team in disarray - he inherited a side who had just sacked their captain and coach and, in his first game in charge saw the side bowled out for 51 in Jamaica - he instilled a discipline and unity of purpose that saw the team rise to No. 1 in the rankings in all three formats. He was exactly the man required when appointed and has exceeded expectations. Despite recent events, he should still go with his head held high and great pride in what he has achieved.
But all things must pass. All the qualities that once rendered Flower the perfect man for the job - his intensity, his attention to detail and his demanding personality - have now become the reasons he needs to go. England need refreshing. They need to rediscover their joy in playing the game. They need a change.
For that reason, it is highly likely that, sometime over the next few days or weeks - probably in the aftermath of the Sydney Test - Flower will take the decision to resign. He will reflect on what he has seen and come to an honest decision over whether he is the man to inspire a resurgence in this England team. Anyone who has seen them disintegrate over recent weeks can come to only one conclusion.
He will not be sacked. An odd situation has arisen where there is arguably no-one with the authority to do so. Hugh Morris, the managing director of England cricket, has just stepped down and it is asking a great deal of his successor, Paul Downton, to make such a decision on his first week in the job. David Collier, the chief executive, is more suited to overseeing financial matters and long-term planning, while the idea that a non-paid chairman like Giles Clarke could take such a decision is ludicrous.
Despite the current debacle, the ECB will not be without a succession plan. Ashley Giles remains the frontrunner to take control of the England teams in all formats and with a new head coach invariably comes a new back-room team which means the roles of Graham Gooch, the batting coach, and David Saker, the bowling coach, are extremely vulnerable especially after the batting collapses during this tour and the lack of a role for any of England's tall quicks.
Graeme Welch, Giles' right-hand man when he oversaw Warwickshire County Championship success in 2012, will be a strong contender for the bowling role and Paul Collingwood would be a viable candidate for the batting role. Graham Thorpe would, in normal circumstances, be a favourite for the batting position due to his links with England Lions but there is some doubt over his willingness to tour.
There may be questions about Alastair Cook's captaincy, too. Again, it is highly unlikely that Cook will be sacked. Rightly so, too: it is only a year since he led England to victory in India, and a few months since the previous Ashes and a home season that included taking the side to the brink of their first global ODI trophy. However, though he said what he had to after the Melbourne defeat, whether Cook has the appetite for the challenge after this dispiriting reverse remains to be seen.
As his senior spinner wilted and his wicketkeeper flapped like a drowning seal, Cook looked a broken man on the fourth day. Stuart Broad, the captain of the Twenty20 side, and Ian Bell, the Test vice-captain and a particularly impressive leader at domestic level, would be the only viable candidates to replace him.
The selectors need to reflect on their contribution to the current state of disarray, too. To have picked a side with an inadequate reserve wicketkeeper, a lack of reserve opening batsmen, three tall drinks waiters and a reserve spinner who came into the tour with serious doubts over his readiness to return to this level, has been proven to be folly. Several of those errors could have been averted had they simply taken more notice of results in county cricket.
While there will be the inevitable calls for a complete cull from the side, that would prove a mistake. Kevin Pietersen remains, whatever his army of critics say, the prize wicket for every opposition side, while James Anderson showed in Melbourne that he remains a skilful operator. England's early bowling on the fourth morning by Anderson, Broad and Ben Stokes was impressive. They created four chances before lunch but, partly due to Jonny Bairstow's obvious deficiencies with the gloves, two of them went begging. Suffice it to say, Matt Prior had a good game in Melbourne.
However, it's hard to see how changes won't be made for Sydney. Tim Bresnan and Michael Carberry are vulnerable but Monty Panesar, slinging down his left-arm medium pace with a horribly ragged action, was wretched and will almost certainly be replaced by the young legspinner Scott Borthwick. Borthwick is not the finished article but as a fine fielder, a decent batsman and a fresh face, he offers hope for the future. And, in a grim chapter for England cricket, hope is about the best that can be offered.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo