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An inevitable and ruthless display

On the eve of this game, Ricky Ponting had referred to complacency as a media term, and his team emphasised that with a performance so ruthless and clinical that you wished a referee was around to stop the mismatch. Even if Ireland had played their very best, it would probably have been nowhere near enough, but once they lost the toss on a lively pitch, you flinched in anticipation of the Coke-can-and-speeding-locomotive act that would soon follow.

The first four Irish batsmen managed two between them, and if not for a gritty 23 from John Mooney, the embarrassment would have been all the more acute. For Australia, who took just 42.2 overs in all to seal a place in the semi-finals, it was no sort of preparations for their two toughest assignments - Sri Lanka and New Zealand.

"I don't know if it's good preparation," Ponting said with a shrug. "We were just trying to win as well as we could." He didn't, however, go so far as to question Ireland's presence in the Super Eights. "They won their way there," he said. "They won more games than India and Pakistan did [they won the same number, but also tied another]. Sure, India and Pakistan might have put up a bit more of a fight, but they had their chance to be here and didn't take it."

Ponting accepted that the game had been a one-sided stroll - "I thought they might get 150 or so" - but said there had been no temptation to bat first. "We wanted to look after the run-rate and that was the main reason [for bowling]," he said. "There was a little bit in the wicket, and we bowled really well with the new ball."

With Nathan Bracken rested, Glenn McGrath was handed the new ball and he responded with the sort of spell that would have been too much for better sides, leave alone Ireland. He bowled only seven overs, but figures of 3 for 17 were enough to take him top of the tournament's wicket-taking charts and also clinch Man-of-the-Match honours.

"It was good to just get used to the wicket," McGrath said when asked if this brief outing would give Australia any idea of what to expect if they make it back for the final. "It had a lot more bounce than the others we've played on. There was good carry, though a few kept a bit low.

"When I came here in 1995, the wicket had good pace, carry and bounce. It was pretty much the same in '99. But in 2003, the wicket was one of the slowest I've played on. To me, this is what West Indies cricket is about. I grew up watching four fast bowlers on fast, bouncy wickets."

Over the past decade, he's joined those legends in the cricketing pantheon, and his display against outclassed opposition highlighted many of the qualities that have made him the game's greatest pace bowler. Jeremy Bray was done in by a swinging yorker, Eoin Morgan nibbled at one that angled across and Andrew White was stitched up with a slower ball.

At the end of it all, there was a trace of sympathy for the Irish. "When we play well, not many teams in the world can beat us," McGrath said before brushing off suggestions that his strong showing in the Caribbean might prompt a rethink on retirement. "If all goes well, I'll get four more matches and then hang the boots up."

The first of those four is on Monday, against a Sri Lankan side that appear to be peaking at the right time. In Grenada, McGrath will renew acquaintance with another of the game's veteran warriors. "He's still a class player and a destructive batsman," he said, when asked about Sanath Jayasuriya. "From what we've seen, the pitch in Grenada is slower and takes some turn. It will be a big test for us, and probably suit Sri Lanka. As for Jayasuriya, we'd like to get on top of him early and knock him over."

It's a game that they can afford to lose, but you sense that such thoughts are alien to the Australian mind. "The next two weeks are a showcase time for us," Ponting said. "The senior players have been there before and this is when you'll see them stand up." If they do so in concerted fashion, the rest of the world may as well pack up and head home.