Much like 2017, India’s hopes of reaching the semifinals of the World Cup is down to their last group stage match. It all comes down to a battle against South Africa for Mithali Raj and Co. The good news is that things are very much in India’s hands. The not-so-good news is that South Africa have plenty going for them heading into this all-important match.

Better recent head-to-head? Check. A win in the last World Cup meeting? Check. Form in this tournament? Check-ish. Sune Luus and Co started with four wins and then ran into Australia who looked imperious against the team that is finishing second on the table. Then came a bizarre 10-over match against West Indies that was abandoned but not before a crazy phase of play that saw South Africa’s batting unit struggle before a middle-order recovery. A bit of momentum, pun intended, lost? Perhaps, but they will head into this match the favourites against India just based on their all-round quality.

India take on South Africa on Sunday at Hagley Oval in Christchurch with the Proteas’ place in the knockout stages already confirmed, but India need a win to ensure they will join them in the last four. The Women in Blue currently sit fifth, outside the qualification spots on net run rate behind England but with their fate in their own hands as they know avoiding defeat against South Africa would move them above the West Indies and into the semi-finals.

Batting consistency has constantly eluded India. But they will look to the match against West Indies and hope to reproduce such an effort to put South Africa under pressure. It will be easier said than done against a fantastic bowling unit led by Marizanne Kapp and Shabnim Ismail. India’s spin-heavy attack will hold the key too as South Africa’s batting have struggled a bit in the middle overs this tournament.

Partnerships, no surprise, was the buzzword from both camps on the day before.

World Cup semi-final qualification scenarios: How can Mithali Raj and Co finish in top four?

Head-to-head and recent history

Match 28 of this year’s tournament will be the fifth meeting between India and South Africa at ICC Women’s World Cups. India lead the historical head-to-head battle, winning three of those four encounters (lost: 1). However, South Africa came on top in their last meeting in 2017, winning by 115 runs.

These two nations have also played 23 ODIs excluding the World Cups. It has been a close contest so far with India winning 12 matches, compared to South Africa’s 10 (1 NR). Four of South Africa’s wins came in the most recent bilateral series in March 2021 at India, where they won the five-match series 4-1.

This will be the last group stage match for both India and South Africa in this competition. India are currently at fifth position with three wins and three losses; a win here would guarantee their spot in the semi-final stage.

Meanwhile, South Africa are currently in second place with four wins, one loss and one NR. They have already secured their semi-final place; regardless of the outcome of this match, their position in the points table will remain unchanged.

IND-SA at ICC Women's Cricket World Cup

Result Margin Toss Ground Start Date
SA won 115 runs India Leicester 8 Jul 2017
IND won 4 wickets SA Pretoria 26 Mar 2005
IND won 8 wickets India Christchurch 30 Nov 2000
IND won 5 wickets SA Patna 22 Dec 1997

IND-SA recent results (From CWC17)

Result Margin Ground Start Date
SA won 5 wickets Lucknow 17 Mar 2021
SA won 7 wickets Lucknow 14 Mar 2021
SA won 6 runs Lucknow 12 Mar 2021
India won 9 wickets Lucknow 9 Mar 2021
SA won 8 wickets Lucknow 7 Mar 2021
India won 6 runs Vadodara 14 Oct 2019
India won 5 wickets Vadodara 11 Oct 2019
India won 8 wickets Vadodara 9 Oct 2019
SA won 7 wickets Potchefstroom 10 Feb 2018
India won 178 runs Kimberley 7 Feb 2018
India won 88 runs Kimberley 5 Feb 2018
SA won 115 runs Leicester 8 Jul 2017

Pre-match talk

Shafali Verma has regained her confidence after being dropped during the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup 2022 and says she is now ready for anything as her side look to reach the semi-finals.

Verma was dropped from the India XI for three games after a duck in the opening match against Pakistan but has responded with 54 runs in the two matches since her return.

“I am always ready for any sort of situation whether I was not in the squad,” explained Verma, 18. “When I was included in the squad against Australia, I was ready for it as I always thought that I may be given a chance on any given day.”

“The coaches were backing me when I was in the nets. Our batting coach always gave me confidence which is a very good thing.

“He always worked on my weak and strong points. They always give confidence to our team and give us good throwdowns.

“Our staff go to those players who are not in good nick. They sit with them and give them confidence. As a player, it gives us a boost.”

Verma showed her confidence levels were back with a score of 42 against Bangladesh as India earned a 110-run win last time out.

In that game, the top three of Smriti Mandhana, Verma and Yastika Bhatia all made 30 or more as India’s top order finally began to click just in time for their crunch match against South Africa.

Verma added: “It’s a crucial game and everyone knows their role. I think everyone is ready to give 100 percent.

“All the batters are now in form. Everyone who goes out to bat tends to build partnerships by supporting the batters at the other end as well.

“They always tell us that whatever happens, always back each other. We want to build good partnerships in the next game as a batting unit.

“I think our bowling unit has also improved a lot and fielding as well. I think we have improved a lot as a team.”

The biggest battle in this match will be batting lineup of India and the pace-heavy bowling unit of South Africa. Concern? Not if you are Shafali. “ I love to play hard balls and good bowlers. I have always played against pace and as I will get it in tomorrow match, I am very excited to play tomorrow’s game. It would be fun to play fast balls,” she said.

While India are trending in the right direction, South Africa have experienced a dip in form after winning their opening four games.

The Proteas suffered their first defeat of the tournament against Australia as their bowlers could not prevent the No.1-ranked side chasing down 272 to win.

Rain then washed out their match against the West Indies but not before South Africa had been reduced to 22 for four inside six overs before recovering to add 39 more when the heavens opened.

South Africa will believe they can regain their momentum against India having beaten them 4-1 in an ODI series in 2021, with Chloe Tryon particularly looking forward to the competition between Verma and fast bowler Shabnim Ismail.

Tryon said: “Shabnim has been fantastic for us. I love the fighting character that she is and she really just wants to take wickets and play really well all the time.

“It’s a really good match-up. We know that she’s going to want her wicket and Shafali is going to want to get runs against us so as long as Shabnim keeps her game plan and stays nice and calm, I’m sure that can happen, but that’s going to be a really good contest to see them go about it.”

However, Tryon was quick to clarify that South Africa will not worry too much about their opposition and instead focus on themselves with their semi-final place already assured.

She added: “I don’t think we’ll be focusing on specific people; I think we are just looking at our game plans and how we want to bowl to them and how we want to bat against them and making sure that we’re ticking off those boxes.

“I think if we can stick to our game plan, play the aggressive cricket that we want to and put up competitive totals and take wickets I think we can end up on top.”

Key battle

India in their six bowling innings, have taken only five wickets inside the first powerplay (overs 1- 10); less than any other team in this year’s tournament. Thus, India will be banking on Jhulan Goswami to get them off to the desired start along with perhaps Meghna Singh. Goswami has performed admirably against South Africa in the historical past, taking a total of 33 wickets in 20 innings at an exceptional average of 18.1 and an economy of 3.6 (4-wicket hauls - 2).

South Africa would be hoping that Mignon du Preez adds more runs to her tally and completes their missing piece in the jigsaw. Du Preez, the team’s all-time leading run-getter, is South Africa’s second leading run-scorer against India. She has a total of 564 runs in 18 innings, including three half-centuries. Marizanne Kapp, who will also be a key player, said the former captain looked like a million dollars in the brief outing against West Indies and if she hits form at this stage, it will be a huge boost to the Laura Wolvaardt-dependent batting lineup.

Also read:

In 2000 against South Africa in Christchurch, came Mithali Raj’s first ODI World Cup innings. POTM, unbeaten half century. 22 years later, Mithali Raj will lead India against South Africa in Christchurch for a must-win match. Here’s a look at her journey:

Mithali Raj speaks in this preview for ICC:

With inputs from ICC Business Corporation FZ LLC 2020, Sportradar and ESPNCricinfo Statsguru. All statistics mentioned for women’s One Day Internationals unless otherwise stated.