Three of Australia's headaches eased as they dumped the hosts and moved into Wednesday's semi-final against New Zealand. In the misty haze of the Mohali evening Australia produced a clear performance that removed some concerns over Ricky Ponting, Shane Watson and Glenn McGrath.
After a week when almost everything about him was queried, McGrath's step up was the most welcome for a nation again being asked to consider a future without its most successful fast bowler. McGrath is unlikely to stop talking up his form, fitness or chances, but his extra shine was apparent as soon as he accepted the new ball.

Whether McGrath suggested the demotion to first-change or not, it was a bad decision that affected the morale of one of their leading men and disturbed the side's natural order. It may have worked with Allan Donald and South Africa, but McGrath's position is at the opposite end to Brett Lee and he opened the game by delivering his longest and best spell of the tournament.

In six overs he gave away 12 runs and added Sachin Tendulkar with the type of outside-off-stump ball that batsmen have not been able to master in a decade of trying. It was an important dismissal to prove to McGrath he is capable of dismantling the opposition's major weapons, and Tendulkar joined Herschelle Gibbs, Gary Kirsten and Sanath Jayasuriya at the top of the bowler's one-day dismissals on seven.

The second spell backed up the first and while the figures of 2 for 34 were similar to that against England (2 for 36) last Saturday, they were like comparing silver with tin. Apart from Lee, Australia's fast-bowler heavy attack performed strongly on a pitch offering more help than the standard subcontinent surface. Mitchell Johnson was strong and Nathan Bracken and Shane Watson made useful incisions.

However, Watson's main part came when he showed he was suited to partnering Adam Gilchrist in a pressure situation. Some early shuffles and misses to the legside were soon replaced by tasty flicks and forces in a remodelled technique that seems to have been based on Mark Waugh.

Two pull shots in an Irfan Pathan over filled Watson's confidence levels and sports drinks and syrups were taken to boost his energy. The week has been eventful for Watson with a stint in hospital for a stomach problem and a smart recovery to hold the position he has only recently won from a clutch of contenders. He has earned the spot for a few more trials with a sparkling half-century that showed he can play through pain and disruptions.

Having been sapped of strength during his illness, Watson began suffering leg problems early in the innings and by the 10th over was lying on the pitch. Injury is Watson's regular partner at crucial times. Stress fractures took care of his 2003 World Cup and a popped shoulder while fielding ended his Test bid last summer just as he had convinced Australia's selectors they needed an allrounder.

This time suspected cramps were diagnosed, a runner was called and the body appreciated the assistance. A couple of brilliant driven boundaries - one off either foot - continued to push his innings and a long stay was likely despite the inconveniences. However, a ball after bringing up a 45-delivery half-century he lapsed against Dinesh Mongia and was given out lbw.

When Watson walked off Ponting had moved to 23 after overcoming his early shakes with fours from a cover drive and a pull off Sreesanth. Ponting's lead-up results were the least concerning of the trio, but with batting time limited ahead of the Ashes any stay, even one against a motley attack, was cause for satisfaction. Two singles in the previous games were replaced by a crisp 58 that covered the early bounce of the erratic fast men and the tighter challenges of the spinners.

After a slow start in Mumbai, Australia improved in Jaipur and stepped up again tonight with a six-wicket win as the pressure of the tournament increased. More is required to end the Champions Trophy drought, but with three key men finding comfort the team is suddenly looking healthier.