World Cup Fantasy Guru: England will be back firing on all cylinders
There are a couple of reasons why you would find my team looking a little different from what was said in my previous article: Yasir Shah getting dropped from Pakistan’s squad in the match against West Indies and Sourav Ganguly’s bizarre pitch report ahead of India-South Africa clash.
England v Scotland
Transfers made 3; Transfers remaining – 20
Hashim Amla out – Ian Bell in
Ross Taylor out – Joe Root in (if England bat first)
Dale Steyn out – James Anderson in
Despite their no-shows in the previous two encounters and penchant to be involved in upsets in ICC tournaments, expect England to put up a strong show against Scotland at Christchurch tomorrow. The pitch is expected to assist swing bowling and get better for batting as the day progresses. It has been the pattern with the previous two matches at the venue.
Scotland batsmen had no answer to Tim Southee and Trent Boult in their World Cup opener. I expect it to be the same against James Anderson tomorrow. There is a possibility that Steven Finn can get dropped for Chris Jordan; I hope he doesn’t, though, since he is in my team.
As far as the batting side of it is concerned, Ian Bell and Joe Root should be amongst the runs. Alex Hales could come in for Gary Ballance. If he does, Moeen Ali is likely to be demoted in the batting order. It is better to wait till the toss before finalising your line-up for this match. Scotland have a couple of medium pace bowlers, who are steady at best and move it around a little; however, there is nothing alarming about them.
New Zealand losing so many wickets against the Scots has more to do with their intent to attack than the ability of the bowlers. Whichever way, there are a couple of players whom you must have in the team: Bell and Anderson. The inclusion of Root depends on the toss: if England bat first, get him in; if they don’t, he won’t be needed.
Hales is a gamble worth taking. But do remember that he hasn’t hit for a while.
West Indies v Zimbabwe
Transfers made 1; Transfers remaining – 19
James Anderson out – Sean Williams in
I have four West Indies players in my team already and I don’t really see the need for any more players from the team. I wouldn’t normally look for a Zimbabwean player, but West Indies field a weakened bowling unit and once Jerome Taylor and Jason Holder are done with their new ball spells, the opposition batsmen could cash in on their all-rounders.
Hamilton Masakadza isn’t a safe bet this time around, as an early wicket could easily expose him to the Caribbean pace bowlers. Brendan Taylor and Sean Williams are the best options, and I am inclined to go with Williams, as his left-arm spin could yield a few wickets as well. Also, Sulieman Benn could be a hurdle to Taylor, while Williams, being a left-hander, will deal him with relative ease.
Updated: 9.05 PM, February 24
I missed out on making transfers for the England-Scotland game. It didn’t cost me as heavily as I thought it would; having Steven Finn as the default captain helped. And as there was a rain threat for the West Indies v Zimbabwe match, I changed my captaincy from Jerome Taylor to Marlon Samuels and it paid off big time as well.
Ireland v United Arab Emirates
Transfers made – 2; Transfers remaining – 17
Ian Bell out – Khurram Khan in
Sean Williams out – Paul Stirling in
This one is a tricky fixture. Despite their brilliant performances in the last match, Ed Joyce and Niall O Brien average only 34 and 30 respectively in ODIs and don’t have any alternative means to return points if they fail with the bat. Paul Stirling, on the other hand, appears a safe bet: he is useful with the ball and has the most number of centuries by an Ireland batsman in his relatively young career.
What also makes Joyce and Brien risky picks is that they are left-handers and the UAE have two off-spinners, turning the ball away from them. Normally, I wouldn't think about picking a UAE player, but with Ireland fielding a weakened bowling attack and Khurram Khan in some sensational form, I would like to bring the southpaw in. Also, he will be facing India in the last match of the phase, thereby giving more scope for points.
While Indian bowlers have done exceptionally well in the tournament so far, they are never too far away from an ordinary performance; therefore, runs are always a possibility. Khurram didn’t bowl in the match against Zimbabwe, but he is capable of turning his arm over too.
George Dockrell is the only bowling option that is worth considering, but the UAE players would be accustomed to slow bowling; I don’t expect him to wreak havoc, and with much better scoring options available in the final 5 matches of the phase, I can sit on my transfers.