Ricky Ponting is resigned to a rebuilding period that could last years after Australia lost their first home Test series for 16 seasons. South Africa will overtake Australia to become the No.1 Test team if they complete a clean sweep in Sydney, having taken an unassailable 2-0 lead with their nine-wicket triumph at the MCG.
"We've had an amazing run as a team," Ponting said. "We have dominated world cricket for a long period of time. I'm still very positive and very sure that with some of these younger guys coming on that in a few years' time we can get back up there and be dominating world cricket once again.
"It's going to take a little while, there's no doubt about that. You can't expect young guys to come in and have sustained success. The younger guys are generally the ones that lack the consistency."
However, Ponting was full of praise for Peter Siddle who, in his third Test, picked up four wickets and bowled one fabulous spell on the second day, and Nathan Hauritz, who kept things tight and also collected four victims. The pair will be part of an inexperienced attack in Sydney, with Ben Hilfenhaus and Doug Bollinger jostling for debuts along with the uncapped allrounder Andrew McDonald.
Ponting has repeatedly asked his senior men to stand up and he led the way in Melbourne with 101 and 99, but the other old heads including Matthew Hayden and Michael Hussey struggled again, as did Andrew Symonds and Brett Lee, who will miss the SCG match through injury. Their below-par efforts contributed to a series loss that Ponting said was frustrating but no worse than previous failures.
"It's disappointing when you lose any series," he said. "This one I think is probably no different. The only fact that's different is that we've probably been in very strong winning positions in both of the Test matches and when we've needed to put the last couple of nails in the coffin we haven't been able to do that.
"In fact we've been a long way from being able to do that. What's happened in this series is generally what Australia have done to teams in the past, where a big moment has come up and we've grabbed it with both hands, turned a negative into very much a positive and then been able to go on and win games."
Australia have now been defeated in two of their past three Test series, failing against India and South Africa. They are the second and third-ranked teams and Ponting said Australia needed to improve their consistency to avoid slipping behind.
"The gap between our best cricket and our worst cricket has been too big," he said. "We have to make that smaller if we want to win the next Test and if we want to stay in the top group of Test-playing nations."