By Nick Mulvenney
SYDNEY (Reuters) - Just how an England team which arrived in Perth last October confident of winning a fourth straight Ashes series ended up capitulating 5-0 will be subject of much soul-searching over the next few months.
The dispiriting defeat at the hands of an Australia team which even their most ardent supporters would not describe as among the greatest to have worn the baggy green marked the distinct end of an era of success for England.
Coach Andy Flower and captain Alastair Cook both want to, and have been told they will be allowed to, keep their positions but there can be few of the other 17 players used in the five tests who feel secure after such a humiliation.
Spinner Graeme Swann has already decided to retire while batsman Jonathan Trott's stress-related illness makes him an unlikely tourist in the future.
The other two spinners, Monty Panesar and Scott Borthwick, as well as paceman Boyd Rankin, who took his first wicket with his final ball on debut, may also have played their last test cricket.
Flower on Monday declined even to confirm Kevin Pietersen - England's fourth highest run scorer of all time and their second highest in the series - was safe.
"This was a bad loss for the England cricket team and as part of our review, we'll be looking at playing personnel and support staff and making sure we have the right people in place," he told reporters.
"But this will be a new start, and so it should be. It does feel like the end of some type of era.
"We might have to take a little more pain before we have sustained success again. And we might have to ask for a little patience in that regard over the coming months."
England's successes in recent years have included two of the most difficult achievements in test cricket - a series win in India in 2012 and the 3-1 Ashes triumph in Australia in 2010-11.
That latter triumph would have seemed aeons away on Sunday when England, having won the toss and sent Australia in to bat, crumpled to a 281-run defeat inside three days at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
"We're not proud of that result. We're not proud of the test series result, of course," Flower added.
"It's quite a bitter pill to swallow but that's what it is and we have to face up to that reality.
"We've been totally outplayed. We've got to review what's happened, we've made mistakes and the sooner we get going with that the better."
The nine week trip has been a reminder of just how tough it is to tour Australia - the blinding light, the rock hard pitches and the hostility of the local media even before they are offered fuel like the leaked 82-page "dossier" on England's dietary requirements.
"When you come to Australia, it's always difficult to win," a rueful Cook said after the Sydney test.
"A lot of sides have found it hard and I think that puts our achievement in 2010-11 right up there as players, that why it was such a cherished thing to do."
With five months until England's next test series at home against Sri Lanka, Flower said there was plenty of time to get the test side right and he picked out several youngsters he thought would a play a part.
Ben Stokes, who scored England's only century of the series and picked up a six-wicket haul, batsmen Gary Ballance and Joe Root as well as paceman Steve Finn, the only squad member not to play a test, were all part of England's future, he said.
"I think it's important that we review this logically and learn from some of the mistakes we've made and ensure that we get English cricket moving in the right direction again," he said.
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