With the ruthlessness that everyone has come to expect from the Australians, they overwhelmed Ireland by nine wickets at Bridgetown after demolishing them for 91. The pace and bounce of Glenn McGrath and Shaun Tait proved too much for the Irish top order, as they removed the top four inside five overs, and only three batsmen reached double figures. The result confirms Australia as the first team in the semi-finals.
Australia could have decided to use this match to hone their all-round game: have a bat, rack up 300-plus then bowl when the track was slower. But they are a team with one focus: winning as quickly and effectively as possible. Apart from 15 wides - mainly from Tait - and one tough chance dropped by Ricky Ponting it was seamless performance. Even Michael Hussey, who had 20 runs in four innings before today, managed useful time in the middle, although he never looked in top form. Adam Gilchrist and Andrew Symonds added the brief fireworks as the chase was completed in 12.2 overs.
The systematic removal of Ireland's batsman began with the final ball of the opening over when McGrath collected Jeremy Bray with a full inswinger which clipped off stump. But McGrath was only the start of Ireland's problems. The pace, never mind unorthodox action, of Tait was something they had never encountered and it showed. After negotiating a maiden over, Tait's second began in dramatic fashion. The first ball was too quick for William Porterfield, who was trapped plumb in front, and with the next Niall O'Brien could only drag a fast, low full toss into his stumps. Somehow Kevin O'Brien survived the hat-trick and responded with a couple of solid flicks through square-leg.
McGrath added his second scalp in regulation style as Eoin Morgan edged to first slip in a manner so many left-handers have fallen to the bowler throughout his career. The record pages were quickly being thumbed to find the lowest World Cup total. That ignominy faded with Tait's direction. His third over took 11 balls and included the missed catch by Ponting at second slip off O'Brien.
Andrew White took a painful blow on the helmet from McGrath and he was still unsteady when he chipped a slower ball from same bowler towards mid-off. McGrath was pulling out all his tricks as his final World Cup continues as a tour de force. He was rested after seven overs, but wickets continued to tumble, with O'Brien's determined stay ending with a poor clip to square-leg. Stuart Clark got his first wicket of the tournament and a useful run-out in case he is called upon in the next few weeks.
Not surprisingly for a fellow Australian, Trent Johnston refused to go down without a fight. However, Ponting was in no mood to offer his rival captain any favours and returned to Tait, who again served up his liquorish allsorts. Even the ball to shift Johnston, wide and full, was nothing special but his pace brings the added dimension. John Mooney showed his team-mates resistance was possible until Tait's direct hit from mid-off ended the innings in emphatic style.
Without having much of a target to aim for, Hussey was straight up to open in place of Matthew Hayden. Gilchrist was quickly into his stride and the fifty came up in the seventh over. Ireland, though, did have one moment to celebrate as their never-say-die captain swung one to get Gilchrist. Symonds was handed a brief outing in the middle, thumping one ferocious straight six, before Hussey completed the formalities with his first maximum of the World Cup.
The match lasted less than the length of one innings and was over on the stroke of the lunch interval. Ireland's fans never stopped singing, despite their team's predicament, and they'll continue to party into the afternoon. They just won't have any cricket to watch.