The match was billed as one of the potential humdingers of the ICC Champions Trophy, pitting as it did the current world champions against the defending champions. But the Australians would have none of it. After the batsmen had clattered the New Zealand bowlers to all corners, piling on 296 for seven, their bowlers, led by Glenn McGrath, returned after lunch to complete the job.

The whopping 164-run victory virtually confirms Australia place in the semi-finals, where they are likely to take on the tournament hosts Sri Lanka.

Chasing a mammoth 297 to win in the afternoon, New Zealand were in trouble early on. After Gillespie had accounted for Nathan Astle, trapped lbw for a second ball duck, McGrath created havoc.

He began by picking up two wickets off consecutive deliveries, removing Stephen Fleming lbw for 12 and Lou Vincent for a golden duck, caught by Damien Martyn at second slip. Matthew Sinclair and Scott Styris though played a couple of cracking drives off McGrath, prompting Ponting to get Brett Lee warmed up.

But McGrath raised his game. Bowling with increased venom, he struck in successive overs to dismiss both batsmen. First to go was Styris (16), caught behind off a wild heave. McGrath then removed the in-form batsman Sinclair (18), nicely taken behind the stumps by Gilchrist.

Into his seventh over McGrath was celebrating his five-for and his 250th ODI wicket after dismissing Jacob Oram. Ponting could not have asked for more from his opening fast bowler. New Zealand were in dire straits, reeling at 51 for six.

Lee took over, trapping Vettori (6) leg before with a fast delivery. Chris Harris (19) followed soon after and Daryl Tuffey was caught by Warne at first slip for a duck.

Kyle Mills and Shane Bond though delayed the inevitable with their entertaining last wicket stand, which yielded 50 runs at more than a run a ball. The end finally came when Ponting decided to pay heed to the crowd's demands and bring on Shane Warne. His first ball nearly finished the game, Ponting dropping a difficult catch, but his second wrapped it up as Bond (26) was stumped.

Earlier in the morning, Ponting won the toss and decided to bat. The pitch at the Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC) traditionally helps the fast bowlers during the first hour, but the New Zealand pace attack of Bond, Mills and Tuffey were blunted by an onslaught from Adam Gilchrist. Fierce cuts and pulls were the feature of his quickfire 44 off just 30 balls (7 fours and 1 six).

Australia's first 50 was up on the board off just 25 balls. The strokeplay was imperious, and the sound of the ball hitting the advertising hoarding sounded like gunshots. Gilchrist pulled Tuffey for a four and then a massive six over square leg before miscuing a drive and being caught in the covers.

Matthew Hayden (43) was not at his best, struggling against the moving ball. He survived a sharp return catch off Bond and a few confident shouts for lbw, including one that was referred to the third umpire, who confirmed the inside edge. He was finally dismissed by a beauty from Vettori that spun back sharply.

Ponting too was among the runs, playing some crisp off drives whilst racing to 37 off just 31 balls. Damien Martyn, meanwhile, had a stroke of good fortune early in his innings when New Zealand skipper Fleming put down a sharp catch off the bowling of Bond. He went on to make the most of this stroke of good fortune by making 73 off 87 balls with eight fours.

Martyn's 74-run fourth wicket partnership with Darren Lehmann, who made 35 off 53 balls, and the 57 runs that he added with Michael Bevan (21), along with the contribution of all-rounder Shane Watson, who made 19 off 10 balls, meant that Australia reached a mammoth total.

It was going to be always tough for the New Zealanders from thereon but they certainly were expected to put up a much stronger resistance than they eventually did.