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South Africa, India, New Zealand in race for semi-final spots

Marizanne Kapp runs Nahida Khan out ICC

We are into the second half of the Women's World Cup and with Sri Lanka, Pakistan and West Indies needing a miracle to qualify to the semi-finals, the focus has shifted to the top five teams and three of them will be in action on Saturday.

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South Africa and India face off in Leicester in a rematch of the recent World Cup Qualifier final in Colombo. That game went down to a last-ball finish, with India hitting a six to seal victory, and it shouldn't surprise anyone if this one turns out to be equally thrilling.

Five wins seems the bar for teams to feel confident of being in the final four in this Women's World Cup. South Africa currently only have two, having endured a washout. While their batsmen have been quite reliable, recording the first instance of a team making 300 in a chase even if they couldn't win it, the bowlers have been rather up and down. Last Sunday, West Indies were dismantled for 48, but three days later, England were allowed to make 373, helped by a stretch of 209 balls in the middle overs without a wicket. Considering South Africa are up against India, another batting powerhouse, Dane van Niekerk has some issues to sort out.

Batsman Andrie Steyn, meanwhile, suffered an ankle injury at training and has been ruled out of the tournament. Medium-pacer Odine Kirsten, who picked up 4 for 10 in her last ODI in January, has been called up as replacement.

India, with four wins in four games, already have one foot in the final four. Opener Deepti Sharma scored a crafty 78 against Sri Lanka, and the ever-dependent Mithali Raj has been hitting fifties for fun - she now stands on the cusp of history, 34 short of becoming the top-scorer in women's ODIs. But India will still be wary that in the two games Smriti Mandhana has fallen early, they have not been able to score as quickly as they usually do.

India's spinners, led by their joint-leading wicket-taker Ekta Bisht, have done particularly well to defend whatever their batsmen have scored, be it 169 or 232. The contest between them and South Africa's hard-hitting openers Laura Wolvaardt and Lizelle Lee will be fun to watch.

The day's second match features a potential mismatch. New Zealand's captain Suzie Bates began her campaign with a century and their wicketkeeper Rachel Priest smashed the fastest fifty in Women's World Cup history and finished with 90 off 55 balls. By contrast, Pakistan's batsmen are barely maintaining a strike-rate of 50.

New Zealand enter their fifth group match at fourth place after they thumped West Indies emphatically on Thursday. That meant they jumped above their other rivals from the Southern Hemisphere into the final qualifying spot, despite South Africa's destruction of the same opponents only a few days earlier.

Lea Tahuhu's swing bowling at the top has troubled unsure batsmen and Pakistan's top-order features such wobbliness. Tahuhu, who passed 50 ODI wickets on Thursday, will be featuring in her 50th ODI on Saturday. "When I started off, I was in and out of the team a little bit and in the last two years I have been really able to cement a place in the team and look to lead this bowling attack," she said. "I take great pride in it and it will be a special thing to play my 50th game. It was nice to get to 50 wickets [against West Indies] but at the same time it was nice to get a good team win."

Combine Tahuhu's pace with the wily spin of Amelia Kerr and the returning Leigh Kasperek and you have a well-rounded bowling unit. Their batting has been slow to start off at times, like in the game against Australia, but if Thursday's win was any indication New Zealand's batting has gone up another gear. Rachel Priest played like she was in a hurry to get to her team hotel while Suzie Bates once again oozed class with her batting. The two set up a sturdy middle order that has yet to come to the party in this tournament. With the group stages winding down, their strategy will have to ensure their net-run rate continues to remain better than South Africa at the very least.

Pakistan have fallen away after their spirited, nail-biting opening display. Over their next three games, Pakistan have lost by over 90 runs every time. A high dot-ball percentage has hurt their scoring. Their top scorer of the tournament, Nahida Khan, has only 105 runs in four innings. Their highest total in their last three matches has been 131. They need their batting to click if they are to have any chance of arresting their losing streak.

Their bowling has been far better, but has been let down by poor fielding. Sana Mir continues to break crucial partnerships, and how she uses herself and the other spinners will hold the key in their search for their first win. What has been most disappointing, though, has been Pakistan's seeming lack of intent in searching for the win. Against Australia, chasing 291, it appeared that Pakistan simply looked to bat out their 50 overs; they eventually lost by 159 runs.