Not quite an open and shut case in re-shaping the teams' respective odds ahead of next year's World Cup. Nor in closing the argument about whether Shoaib Akhtar or Brett Lee is the faster bowler.

But, in the confined enclosure represented by Melbourne's Colonial Stadium, the first match of the galactically-named Super Challenge II series was never likely to be an expansive game. Instead, Australia crafted its seven wicket win over Pakistan by prising open an early advantage and then sealing the lid tight on even so much as half-opportunities for the visitors.

In most senses, this contest between arguably the two most highly skilled teams on the contemporary one-day international circuit was underwhelming. The conditions were cold; the atmosphere was restrained rather than crackling with the violent electricity familiar to many limited-overs games in Melbourne; and the interplay between the teams failed to touch great heights.

Crowd numbers were also disappointing, with a roll-up of 11,681 ensuring that the patrons were little more than dotted around the stadium.

Perhaps Melbourne's populace knew something that the promoters didn't: namely, that the two most heavily-billed players of the series - speed merchants Akhtar and Lee - would both be on the sidelines. Akhtar's hopes of playing were arrested by a hip injury. Lee, a recent recidivist in the crime of expensive bowling in one-day internationals, was meanwhile presented with the news that Andy Bichel had been preferred to him in Australia's eleven.

But, while their twin absences deprived the two attacks of their fastest practitioners, and denied the crowd a chance of winning a $25,000 prize, pacemen remained the game's major drawcards.

Bichel (3/30) and Glenn McGrath (1/22) were both outstanding in the early stages, harnessing early moisture in a drop-in pitch to take maximum toll of an Australian victory at the toss. There was noticeable pace, bounce and movement for both bowlers as their early duel with the Pakistan upper order was defined in one-sided fashion.

McGrath found an outside edge from Shahid Afridi (1) by as early as the third over, then forced Imran Nazir (39*) to hospital with a suspected fractured forearm when he snaked a ferociously-bouncing ball back at him from just short a length. Nazir ultimately returned to the fray in the closing overs, launching himself into a series of meaty drives that helped him to top score and to admirably carry his team to a score of 8/176 by the halfway mark.

But, by then, the tone of the match had been set.

Bichel detected a willingness from defiant middle order strokemakers Inzamam-ul-Haq (33) and Younis Khan (16) to drive at balls moving away, and duly secured thick outside edges to wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist. He added a third victim to his kitbag when he prompted Azhar Mahmood (1) to send the ball arrowing to point from an ill-advised cut stroke.

All the while, the spin of Darren Lehmann (2/23) and Shane Warne (1/27) proved similarly compelling and Gilchrist enjoyed a proverbial field day behind the stumps. Such that not even three missed catches in the outfield from the pace bowling of Shane Watson (1/38) could alter the gravity of Pakistan's plight.

And, where everything else at the batting crease had been sealed at source, closed down, and clogged up during the afternoon, the Australians then made light work of their target.

Gilchrist (56) showcased the scything cut stroke and the aggressive mindset that are such features of his game, producing shotmaking as dazzling as the temperatures (not to mention heavy rains, thunder and lightning) outside were chilling. Matthew Hayden (45) helped himself to a surfeit of runs in their partnership of 101 as well, making opening batting look ridiculously uncomplicated on a pitch still offering incentive to the bowlers.

Gilchrist eventually fell to a catch at third man off the wholehearted Mohammad Sami (2/53), and fellow left hander Hayden to a magnificent interception at square leg as he top edged a hook at the same bowler.

In between times, Ricky Ponting (13) also encountered an anxious moment in the midst of a brief stay as he survived a huge lbw shout from the persevering 21-year-old paceman. It was conceivably the only mistake made by umpire Daryl Harper in a game that was otherwise umpired in outstanding fashion.

Throughout the day, there were also precious few errors from Australia. By the time that Lehmann (28*) and Damien Martyn (18*) had polished off the win with more than 17 overs to spare, the visitors' normally aggressive game had been shut down emphatically. Instead, Pakistan's players were merely left to acquiesce with the reality that their opponents had effortlessly opened up a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series.