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Bowlers rip through South Africa

Australia marauded into their fourth consecutive World Cup final today by again embarrassing South Africa on the game's biggest stage.

Glenn McGrath re-opened old wounds and Shaun Tait made them sting painfully in setting up a seven-wicket semi-final victory.

McGrath, playing in the penultimate game of his career, took the new ball and used it to claim three crucial wickets in ageless fashion, while Tait finished with career-best figures of 4-39.

South African captain Graeme Smith won the toss and felt his side's best hope of turning the tables on Australia was to bat first, but with McGrath on a hat trick at 5-27 the dream was in complete ruins.

South Africa were demolished for 149, the country's lowest ever total in its increasingly traumatic World Cup history.

The shell-shocked South Africans gave themselves a shot with the early wicket of Adam Gilchrist, but Australia in this brutal state of mind were never going to allow the kind of disaster that befell their opponents.

With Matthew Hayden in command, as he has been all tournament, Australia cruised to victory with 18.3 overs to spare.

Hayden made 41, and was never hurried. He will enter the World Cup final against Sri Lanka in Barbados on Saturday - a reprisal of the 1996 decider in Lahore - with a fearsome series record of 621 runs at 77.62, and a strike rate better than a run a ball.

This game was hyped as a clash of two heavyweights, and inevitably as South Africa's chance to banish forever the demons of World Cups past, including the tied semi-final of Edgbaston, 1999.

Now those demons will linger for another four years, after Nathan Bracken, McGrath and Tait combined to instigate a dramatic top order collapse.

Smith was the first casualty, bowled as he walked down the wicket at Bracken.

Jacques Kallis, criticised for his snail's innings in the group game against Australia, took a bold approach to McGrath, charging and slapping him to boundary over point.In the same over a yorker length ball toppled his off stump and he was gone for five from nine balls.

With South Africa in deep trouble, Ricky Ponting sensed a chance to go in for the kill and tossed the ball to Tait, who with his fifth ball captured the edge of AB de Villers.

South Africa had talked of being due some luck in World Cups, but there was nothing unlucky about this collapse.

Ashwell Prince and Mark Boucher nibbled at consecutive, tasty deliveries from McGrath when they needed to survive. The ball that got Prince would have been a wide had he not reached for it, but the pressure closing around South Africa at Beausejour Stadium was palpable.

A couple of months ago critics were questioning the 37-year-old McGrath's place in the starting XI; now his aura is as powerful as ever and he is set to finish his fourth World Cup and his brilliant career as the tournament's outstanding bowler.

After Michael Clarke, with a smooth and unbeaten 60 from 86 balls, and Andrew Symonds sealed the win, a place in the final was greeted with handshakes rather than jubilant hugs.

It suggested the job was unfinished, and that Australia will not celebrate until an unprecedented third consecutive World Cup is in the cabinet.

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