Ricky Ponting's Australia ruthlessly dispatched World Cup minnows Ireland by nine wickets to confirm their place in the semi-finals.
Ricky Ponting's Australia ruthlessly dispatched World Cup minnows Ireland to confirm their place in the semi-finals.
The reigning champions, gunning for an unprecedented third straight title, pulled two points clear of their rivals with a nine-wicket victory which also inflated their net run rate considerably.
Ponting insisted before the match that his team would be attempting to turn in their best performance of the tournament to date and professionalism persuaded him to insert Ireland rather than allow his under-used batsmen extended time in the middle.
Within a handful of overs the decision was fully vindicated as Ireland's top four batsmen perished for a dozen runs.
It was a different story at the head of the chase of a paltry 92 as Adam Gilchrist's powerful forearms whizzed the ball to the boundary with their usual regularity.
Dave Langford-Smith, one of three Australians featuring for Ireland having qualified through marriage, bore the brunt as three consecutive deliveries travelled to the ropes on the off-side in an over which cost 16.
Both Michael Hussey and Andrew Symonds were promoted up the order to provide rare opportunities in a tournament in which the Australians have barely broken sweat.
They came together at 62 for one in the ninth over, after Gilchrist was bowled by a fine inswinger from around the wicket sent down by Sydney-born Irish captain Trent Johnston.
Just as he did in last week's success against England, Symonds muscled the opposition into submission.
Two brutal strokes from Symonds – a pulled four and a straight six – sandwiched a spectacular attempted catch at mid-off from Jeremy Bray off medium-pacer John Mooney.
And Hussey finished things in spectacular fashion as he pulled giant paceman Boyd Rankin for six from the second ball of the 13th over.
It emphasised that although Ireland earnt their place in the latter stages of the tournament with that fine win over Pakistan, and have been competitive for lengthy periods of other matches, the gulf between the teams today was gargantuan.
They were dismantled for just 91 thanks mainly to veteran Glenn McGrath and young firebrand Shaun Tait.
McGrath, the leading wicket-taker in World Cup history, wasted little time in adding to his tally as left-hander Jeremy Bray played around a full delivery, the sixth of the morning, which hit off-stump.
New-ball partner Shaun Tait then showed his immense threat with an opener which flew past William Porterfield's nose.
He began his second over in even more spectacular fashion, however, as Porterfield was beaten by the pace to be leg-before and Niall O'Brien dragged a full toss into his stumps in consecutive balls.
Although Kevin O'Brien narrowly survived the hat-trick, the ball passing the outside edge on its way through to wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist, he clipped two boundaries off his pads in the same over.
In between those fours, however, the two-paced nature of a relatively lively surface was shown as a Tait bouncer failed to get up and clocked O'Brien on the shoulder.
Inexplicably, however, Tait totally lost it in his next over, which included four wides and a no-ball, cost nine runs but also contained a drop at second slip by Ponting to allow Andrew White a life.
The respite proved painful, though, as a McGrath bouncer crashed into his helmet in the ninth over.
When White then bunted a slower ball from McGrath to mid-off, Ireland had lost half their side for 32 inside 11 overs.
Johnston drove a four through mid-on for four to instigate some typical chuntering from former New South Wales colleague McGrath.
But both Johnston and O'Brien paid for their endeavour as the former clipped straight to midwicket off the recalled Stuart Clark and the latter chopped on in Tait's second spell.
Vice-captain Kyle McCallan failed to clear mid-on with a mis-hit off Symonds and another of the three Aussies in the Irish XI, Dave Langford-Smith tamely popped up a catch to silly mid-off off wrist-spinner Brad Hogg.
Tail-ender Mooney, drafted in to bolster the bowling, top-scored with 23 for the tournament's one remaining amateur team but perished in attempting to keep the strike when, attempting to steal a single off Brad Hogg from the final ball of the 30th over, he was run out by Tait's direct hit from mid-off.
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What is the actual plan here, lads?
“No more runs!” roars the captain with a dismissive wave of the hand.
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