England's 5-0 Ashes whitewash was always sure to claim high-profile individual victims.

You cannot head for Australia in pursuit of historic victory, return shambolically empty-handed, and simply carry on with playing and management personnel still comfortably intact.

Coach Duncan Fletcher and stand-in captain Andrew Flintoff discovered that much - pedalos and perceived austerity did not help them either, of course - the last time English cricket passed this way in 2006/07.

After the miserable and micro-statistically even worse campaign of 2013/14, in the space of five days, Andy Flower and Kevin Pietersen are the ones who have paid the price.

Flower resigned as team director, and can therefore be credited with one last piece of sound judgement - that it was time to go.

There can be no such consolation for Pietersen, after a meeting between new England and Wales Cricket Board managing director Paul Downton and selectors came to the unanimous conclusion that the South Africa-born batsman was no longer needed by his adopted country.

So ends then the most flamboyant of careers, in which Pietersen delighted and dismayed in near equal measure.

It can be assumed Downton - officially just three days into his new job - has made a pragmatic rather than an emotional decision.

Whereas others might have tired after years of effort to establish and protect a mutually beneficial working relationship with the mercurial Pietersen, Downton could take an entirely dispassionate decision.

It was some dilemma nonetheless to face in his first working week.

On one side of the balance sheet stood more than 8,000 Test runs and an undisputed match-winning ability in all international cricket formats.

On the other was apparent anecdotal evidence - a welter of it, for all we know - that Pietersen could be a destabilising as well as inspirational force in the team environment.

The ECB is being called to account already by some to provide more specifics about why they have called time on Pietersen now when - albeit after a three-month hiatus back in 2012 - they previously chose, more than once, to give him another chance.

His age and, at 33, a largely ineffectual tour in which he was unable to stop England lurching to those five defeats are doubtless factors.

It is fanciful, however, to suggest in a world where legal ramifications are many and potentiall very costly that the ECB might start spilling the beans about who said what to whom during the apparent deterioration of relations between a high-profile contracted player and team management.

Whatever the details, Downton has ensured a proper beginning for the era of Alastair Cook's England - although ironically it will be a team without its captain which begins life post-Pietersen on tour in the West Indies this month.

After England were trounced again in the final Test in Sydney, many well-informed voices spoke - in the hope of a lasting revival of fortunes - of the need for Cook to put his stamp on his own team.

With Flower and now Pietersen gone, there is no reason why Cook cannot do just that.