Sydney: Australian cricket must make ruthless decisions about its aging side in the wake of the team's shattering defeat to South Africa in three days in Cape Town, Australian newspapers said Saturday.
South Africa staged one of the great Test comebacks to win by eight wickets after trailing by 188 runs on the first innings, skittling Australia for 47 in their second innings and then cruising to victory on the third day.
While South Africa celebrated an astonishing victory, the Australian press called for action.
"Australia's humiliation is complete and the retribution starts now," The Australian said.
"Heads will almost certainly roll after a devastating loss in the first Test and it remains to be seen if Mitchell Johnson or Ricky Ponting play the next Test in the wake of the Newlands loss."
The Daily Telegraph's Malcolm Conn singled out former Test skipper Ponting for blame and called for the blooding of new players.
"It's time. Ricky Ponting's mortality has caught up with him," Conn wrote.
"Some former teammates of Australia's best batsman after Bradman were right to believe that when he retired from the captaincy earlier this year Ponting should have walked away altogether.
"His downward spiral has become a freefall but Ponting is not tumbling alone among those involved in Australia's second-innings debacle of 47.
"It will be a tough assignment for captain and new selector Michael Clarke to make some ruthless decisions for the sake of Australia's future. If there's going to be continuing pain let's have it with young players on the way up, not fading players on the way down."
Conn said the Australian summer was the perfect opportunity to continue blooding new players, adding "there will be few more comfortable assignments than meeting New Zealand in Brisbane and Hobart next month."
Erratic paceman Johnson was another in the media's sights.
"Johnson got a consolation wicket in the 30th over, but there have to be serious questions about his future," The Australian said.
"The left-hander has failed to take a wicket in seven of his last 17 innings and is averaging more than 50 runs per wicket since the Perth Test (against England last December)."
The Sydney Morning Herald's Peter Roebuck said that even if the Proteas deserved praise the Australians could not escape censure.
"It is one thing to lose a match, another to throw it away," he said.
New chief selector John Inverarity and a fresh panel take over next week, he pointed out. "Already they have plenty to think about, not least their supposed strike bowler (Johnson), greatest batsman (Ponting), batting order and gloveman (Brad Haddin)," he said.
"It's hard to change a team on tour but as the ceremonies were completed, the sound of sharpening knives echoed around the ground."