The feel-good bubble had to burst sometime, and Ireland will be relieved that it came in this match, with qualification for the Super Eights already guaranteed. They will take solace from the fact that they were shown up by a magnificent innings from Shivnarine Chanderpaul, and remain quietly confident that an upset or two remain possible even in the august company they'll find themselves in when they journey to Guyana.
Guyana of course is home to Chanderpaul, and there would have been more than a few celebrations in Unity village as he overcame his sluggish start to the competition with an innings of style and substance. Four fours in one over rather messed up Boyd Rankin's figures, and Andrè Botha's Scrooge-like spell against Pakistan was relegated to the recesses of the memory with two magnificent hits down the ground. The pick of the bunch was probably the six against Kyle McCallan though, traipsing down to the pitch of the ball and walloping it against the spin over the legside.
The emphatic nature of the victory also sets West Indies up nicely for a tilt at Australia in their opening game of the Super Eights. The return of Ian Bradshaw was clearly a positive, and the new-ball bowling of Daren Powell continues to be hugely impressive. If Jerome Taylor, who took a hat-trick against Australia in the Champions Trophy last October, can rediscover that sort of form, the West Indian attack won't cede ground to anyone. On the surfaces that they know so well, the offspin of Chris Gayle and the medium pace of Dwayne Bravo will be factors as well.
As for Ireland, they went around the ground acknowledging their fantastic support at the end of the game. After two heroic performances, they were perhaps due a blip, and there's no doubt that Trent Johnston, the injured captain, was badly missed, both for his all-round ability and the inspirational qualities that prompted Adrian Birrell, the coach, to appoint him two years ago.
"We needed someone to get a big score," Birrell, who saw Jeremy Bray finish with an innings-high 41 after squandering a promising start, said. "We were looking at 230 or 250 as a par score." McCallan, one of the veteran campaigners who led out the side after more than five years, also conceded that Johnston had been missed. "When you lose a player of Trent's calibre, it takes a lot out of the side. It's like England playing without [Andrew] Flintoff, or West Indies without Brian Lara."
The Irish certainly won't be overawed in illustrious company. "I suppose people wouldn't have given us a chance against Pakistan either," McCallan said. "We're not naïve, we know we'll be taking on the world's elite. But if we bat, bowl and field well, who knows?"
Birrell, who admits that meeting South Africa, his favourite side, will be a strange experience, is taking it one match at a time. "It's a dream to play England in the World Cup," he said, when asked about the likely encounter next Friday should the English see off Kenya. "They showed that they could bounce back and beat a team like Australia [in the CB Series]. We're certainly looking forward to it."
For Brian Lara, things are going as well as they could be. "We're building to a point where we want to get on to the bigger games, like Australia and South Africa. The majority of the batsmen have had a hit and that's good for us. We just need to up the ante a little bit."
The prospect of facing Australia in their opening Super Eights game didn't faze Lara. "We've done well against them in the recent past," he said. "And in the last couple of global tournaments since the 2003 World Cup, we've won one and finished runner-up in the other. We want to keep growing as a team."
He admitted that he would have preferred to see Pakistan go through from the group. "We thought they might be able to take points off some of the other teams in the Super Eights," he said candidly. "But Pakistan panicked, while Ireland held their own throughout. These things can happen."
So, on a day when India joined Pakistan on the tournament scrap heap, the hosts moved serenely on. They're not quite the finished article, but the atmosphere at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua should certainly inspire them on Tuesday. And if they can overcome Australia, the whispers of a return to the glory days will certainly grow a little louder. After such a miserable week for cricket, it was certainly heart-warming to see so many thousands heading home with a smile on their faces.