World Cup Fantasy Guru: Toss it up
South Africa v United Arab Emirates
Transfers made – 2 (3); Transfers remaining – 14 (13)
Ed Joyce out – Hashim Amla in
Kumar Sangakkara out – AB de Villiers in (only if SA bat first)
Tillakaratne Dilshan out – Faf du Plessis in (if SA bat first) / Dale Steyn in (if SA bowl first)
If South Africa bat first, the equation is simple: bring in Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers. I have previously stated the logic behind stacking up your side with top 4 batsmen in a heavyweight v minnow clash, so I don’t think it is necessary for me to explain it again. It has worked a number of times before, and it will work again.
I have opted against picking any bowlers because the wickets will be split, more so with Dale Steyn now back to his best.
However, if they bat second, it wouldn’t be very easy to pick the players who would end up with maximum points. The deck is batting friendly, so ideally the UAE batsmen should help themselves to a 170+ score, which will mean Amla could end up with 130 points (by scoring around 75 runs) and that makes him a compulsory inclusion.
However, the MoM award should go to a bowler if the Proteas bowl first. Who would it be? Kyle Abbott shouldn’t get much assistance on that wicket, so Dale Steyn, with his pace and bounce, is likely to run through the UAE top order and then come back for his second spell to pick up a few cheap wickets. By the time Morne Morkel and Imran Tahir come into the attack, there wouldn’t many batsmen left for them to produce an impact performance, so that rules them out.
Quinton de Kock or Rilee Rossouw - whoever opens tomorrow will score a few runs and that eliminates Du Plessis and the rest from the scene if South Africa chase.
New Zealand v Bangladesh
Transfers made – 4; Transfers remaining – 9 (10)
Hashim Amla out – Brendon McCullum in
Faf du Plessis/Dale Steyn out – Kane Williamson in
AB de Villiers/Kumar Sangakkara out – Ross Taylor in (if Nz bat first)/ Daniel Vettori in (if Nz bowl first)
Lasith Malinga out – Shakib Al Hasan in
Brendon McCullum could go hammer and tongs irrespective of the toss, so that makes him an absolute necessity. Given his style of play, he is never too far away from a failure though.
Bangladesh would post a decent total on the board, in the range of 225-250, even if they bat first. The wicket is not expected to assist pacers, and so the Kiwi quicks would not wreak as much havoc as they have managed to throughout the tournament. With the way the New Zealand openers have been batting, Williamson stands a good chance of scoring a century either way. That would make him the second pick for tomorrow’s clash.
The deck provides reasonable assistance for spinners, and as a result, Shakib Al Hasan will come into play. Given how badly the Kiwis play spin bowling, he could be amongst the wickets. In addition to it, he is capable of returning points with the bat too. He will be the only Bangladesh player I will have for this game.
I don't expect Mahmudullah to repeat what he did against England tomorrow. Mushfiqur Rahim loses out to Shakib, as picking more than a single player from a weak team when it plays a powerhouse like New Zealand would be naive.
Now comes the tricky part. A Kiwi pacer or Corey Anderson on a pitch that provides zero assistance to pacers, but a little to spinners to an extent that the Kiwis may need Corey Anderson’s finishing skills – who would you go for?
I would surely not waste a substitution on a Kiwi pacer here. Neither Trent Boult not Tim Southee should be effective on that surface unless they get lucky at the death. While Anderson is easily the better pick when you compare with the pace bowling duo, you would have, by now, guessed what I would do: yes, I bring in Ross Taylor again.
This is a potential game changer, and I don’t see him not making a contribution for so long. And at this point, I need players such as him to push my team up in the rankings table. However, it would happen only if New Zealand bat first.
If the Kiwis bowl first, I would go in with Daniel Vettori in place of Taylor, purely because if there is one bowler who could win the MoM award here, it would be this wily left-arm spinner. The Bangladesh batsmen are likely to go after him, and he could cash in on that big time.
England v Afghanistan
Transfers made - 1; Transfers remaining – 8
Rilee Rossouw out – Joe Root in (if Eng bat first) / James Anderson in (if Eng bowl first)
If not for the fact that captaining a player will provide double the points, I wouldn’t pick any player for this match. Reports suggest that a green pitch lies in wait for the two teams tomorrow, so going for England openers could backfire, as Afghanistan have got a potent bowling attack. So, if England bat first, I would bring in Joe Root – who is easily England’s best batsman. He is also likely to spend a lot of time at the crease.
However, if they bowl first, Afghanistan could get bowled out for a score of under 200. In that case, picking Root will not yield big returns. So, I will have to gamble on an England pacer. James Anderson looked threatening for the first time in this tournament in England’s last match, against Bangladesh, and I expect him to continue with his good form.
Afghanistan players aren’t worth the risk.