Sydney - Australian media said the national cricket team was in "tatters" on Wednesday with its captain's future in doubt after a humiliating defeat to England put the coveted Ashes trophy out of reach.
"The Ashes are gone. Australian cricket is in tatters," lamented Sydney's Daily Telegraph.
"Our national sport has been failed by feckless administrators, confused selectors, a clueless coach and sadly out-of-form players."
Holders England wrapped up a massive innings and 157-run win in Melbourne on day four Wednesday to take an unbeatable 2-1 series lead with one match to play.
It was the first time since 1986/87 that England have retained the Ashes in Australia, whose once all-conquering team has slumped since the retirement of a host of Test greats.
"Watching Australia throw away the Ashes at the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) yesterday afternoon was like visiting a dear friend with a terminal illness," wrote Telegraph columnist Andrew Webster.
"For all your affection for the old fella, you could only look on helplessly. There was nothing you could do."
Captain Ricky Ponting came under renewed fire after he managed just 20 in Australia's second innings of 258, sealing a miserable performance following a heated exchange with the umpires which cost him 40 percent of his match fee.
"Is it the end for our troubled leader?" the Telegraph asked, while The Australian called him, "A master and commander no more".
"The only question that remained was whether the captain would go down with his ship," wrote The Australian's Malcolm Conn.
"To jettison Ponting at this time of crisis would further damage an already deeply scarred side," he added. "But continued failure of the current magnitude cannot be tolerated."
The Sydney Morning Herald fretted that England were "Long to reign over us," while ABC website columnist Glenn Mitchell called Ponting a "dead man walking".
"Australian cricket is definitely at its modern-day nadir," Mitchell wrote.
"Not since the mid-1980s has it looked so impotent and ineffectual, especially against its Ashes arch-rival."
However former Test bowler Shane Warne, among the golden generation which gave Australia a stranglehold on world cricket during the 1990s, urged selectors not to hit the panic button.
"Let's go away and think about things, rather than rush into any silly decisions," Warne wrote in the Telegraph, adding that Ponting should remain as captain until after the World Cup which starts in February.
"Stick with him, wait until all the dust settles after this summer and after the World Cup, then decide what tack you're going to take."