Downton succeeded Hugh Morris in February 2014 and was under pressure almost from day one, when he fronted the decision to sack Kevin Pietersen.
His appointment of Peter Moores as head coach has also had its critics, while the decision to back Alastair Cook as one-day captain before ditching him on the eve of the World Cup also went down badly.
New chief executive Tom Harrison has abolished Downton’s job description and will replace it with the slightly reworded ‘director of England cricket’.
Harrison was presented as the public face of Downton’s exit, but incoming ECB chairman Colin Graves, who begins work in May, must surely have had a hand in proceedings.
Harrison said: “The England Cricket Department needs to deliver performance at the highest level and our structure needs to be accountable for reaching the standards we aspire to. The new role we are putting in place will deliver an environment where world class performance is at the heart of everything we do.
“Paul is a man of great integrity who has worked extremely hard to make a difference at the ECB. He joined at a very difficult time, but under his leadership the Test team have made significant strides. We thank him for his hard work, drive and determination and wish him every success for the future.
“The touring team in the West Indies are aware of the changes. The process for appointing the new role, with sole responsibility for the England set-up, will begin immediately.”
An additional statement from the ECB added: “The Managing Director role will be removed from the ECB structure. A newly created role of ‘Director of England Cricket’, with a clear focus on delivering a world class performance environment for all formats will replace it.
“The restructuring follows a review of the team’s performance at the World Cup and a need to look to the long-term, putting a plan in place for 2019 and beyond.”