India v South Africa, Group E, Durban September 19, 2007

Indian win will make net run rate key for semi-final slot

Graeme Smith will have one eye on the net run rate, lest a heavy defeat against India allows New Zealand to slip into the semis through the back door © Getty Images

There's just one match to go in the Super Eights stage of the World Twenty20 Cup, but Group E still holds plenty of interesting possibilities: South Africa, New Zealand and India all have a chance of making it to the semi-finals, but none of them have secured a place in the last four yet.

With two wins in their first two games, it seemed New Zealand might have assured themselves of an early entry into the semis, but their two wins were both by very narrow margins, which gives them a net run rate which is very narrowly positive: +0.05. Both South Africa and India have a higher NRR than that, which means that India - who are currently two points behind New Zealand and South Africa - only need to win, by any margin, to make it to the semis. South Africa can get there even if they lose to India, but the margin of defeat has to be narrow enough to ensure their NRR doesn't slip below 0.05.

For example, if India bat first and score 170, South Africa will have to score at least 143 to ensure their NRR is better than New Zealand's, who will then miss out on the last four. If South Africa bat first and score 170, India will have to chase it down in less than 16.4 overs to eliminate South Africa from the tournament.

Of course South Africa can avoid all the arithmetic if they beat India, in which case they will top the group and stay in Durban for the semi-final on Saturday. And there's no question about who New Zealand will be supporting in this game: all they need to make the cut is for South Africa to beat India and push them out of the tournament.

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo