A must-win game for South Africa and England April 14, 2007

Expect a cracker on Tuesday



Graeme Smith will have plenty of time to mull over things if South Africa lose to England on Tuesday © AFP

While New Zealand assured themselves of a place in the semi-finals with the win in Grenada - a result which also ensures Sri Lanka are in the semis, regardless of the results in their last two games - the defeat has put South Africa's semi-final prospects in serious jeopardy. With just one match to go, the South Africans are on six points, only two in front of England, who also have an extra match in hand. The two teams clash on Tuesday, in a must-win game for both. Not only is the result critical to those two teams, it will also impact a couple of other sides in the tournament.

Scenario 1: England beat South Africa

England will then be level with South Africa on six points, and will have an excellent opportunity to seal their semi-final spot with a win against West Indies. South Africa will finish their Super Eight campaign on six points, and will sweat on the results of the other games to keep them in the hunt: for them to go through, West Indies will have to beat England, which will then leave three teams - South Africa, England, and West Indies or Bangladesh - on six points. Net run rates will then come into play, which is again bad news for South Africa - they are currently languishing at -0.21, and a defeat against England won't help their cause much. Graeme Smith might just regret the fact that he bowled five overs for 56 against West Indies, allowing them to come within 67 runs of their 356.

England going past South Africa will also suit West Indies and Bangladesh perfectly. Brian Lara and Habibul Bashar have been talking about their World Cups being over already, but they just might have rushed it a bit. If England's victory margin against South Africa is a narrow one, and if West Indies thrash Bangladesh and England (it might look unlikely at the moment, but nothing's beyond a team which has Chris Gayle and Lara in their batting line-up), their NRR might just sneak up beyond that of England and South Africa. Ditto for Bangladesh, if they beat Ireland and West Indies.

Scenario 2: South Africa beat England

Realistically, that's South Africa's only chance of making it to the last four. A South African win will also shut out England, West Indies and Bangladesh, making two of the last four matches - West Indies versus Bangladesh and West Indies versus England - completely redundant. Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and South Africa will then be the four semi-finalists, with the rest of the matches only deciding the positions within the top four.

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo