World Cup Fantasy Guru: Last throw of the dice
South Africa vs New Zealand
Quite a tricky match this to predict which way it would go, and therefore picking players for fantasy cricket wouldn’t be easy too. Whichever way, AB de Villiers and Trent Boult would be my first two picks for the face-off. Batting at Eden Park hasn’t been easy, especially under lights, so I have decided not to overload my team with batsmen from the side that bats second tomorrow.
Kane Williamson and Hashim Amla haven’t done much in the tournament so far. With the quality of attacks that they would be facing tomorrow, it wouldn’t cost you much even if you don’t have them – and that they are one dimensional only strengthens the case. However, it is evident from the shots they play that they are in form. It is just that the big knock hasn’t come.
Initially, I had decided to have only one of them – the player from the side that bats first. But I don’t find a better alternative for Williamson in New Zealand; for South Africa though, you can rope in one of their two finishers. So, Williamson will have to be in the eleven irrespective of what happens at the toss.
Morne Morkel has been in the form of his life in ODIs, which makes him a must-have. Kyle Abbott slots in for budget reasons, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him wreaking havoc if the Proteas bowl second. Even if they bowl first, negotiating him in the first 15 overs won’t be easy.
New Zealand’s biggest weakness is their death bowling, and if South Africa bat first, David Miller and JP Duminy could cash in on it. I can’t have both of them, though. So I have opted to go with Miller for two reasons: he comes into bat first and that ‘Duminy’s off-spin could fetch you points’ logic isn’t really valid – chances are really high that he could get smashed for 50 runs in 5 overs.
The Kiwi bowlers are too good for Quinton de Kock and Rilee Rossouw to mess around. I have discussed enough about why I don’t like to have Faf du Plessis in limited overs cricket against top teams. The deck is not expected to assist spinners, but then the Kiwis are not good players of spin and Imran Tahir is a brilliant one day bowler to look beyond him.
As far as New Zealand are concerned, Corey Anderson doesn’t fancy playing pace and bounce, but he bowls 10 overs and even on an ordinary day he can return 100 points, which makes it impossible to leave him out.
Brendon McCullum hasn’t been the same force that he was in the first half of the tournament, yet if New Zealand bat first, it is a gamble worth taking; if they bowl first though, I wouldn’t have him. Martin Guptill has cashed in on the weak bowling attacks of Bangladesh and West Indies so far, but South Africa are a different kettle of fish.
Ross Taylor has had a miserable tournament. Tim Southee hasn’t been at his best after the England match, but I would still get him in as he wouldn’t get a better deck to bowl on. Also, he is New Zealand’s first choice option at the death. Daniel Vettori would have plenty of left-handers to deal with, which would nullify his threat.
Australia vs India
SCG has been quite a mystery so far; it has offered all sorts of decks – sporting, green and flat. So, do listen to the pitch report before deciding on anything. I have picked my team assuming it would be a sporting deck that would offer some assistance for pacers in the first 10-15 overs before spinners come into play.
For all the hype about how Indian spinners can cash in on the SCG wicket, it is not going to be a turner obviously – so don’t pay too much heed to it. Imran Tahir has bowled well on almost every deck he has played on in this World Cup, so his performance against Sri Lanka in the first quarter-final doesn’t really indicate anything.
I expect batting to a little difficult under lights, especially against the new ball. So if India bat second, the only batsman I would be getting in is Virat Kohli. Since you will be transferring out AB de Villiers, you will need a wicket-keeper for combination reasons and that would be MS Dhoni. The quality of the bowling attack that Australia have, India would be needing Dhoni to deliver too. While I don’t expect Shami to do much, he gets in for budget reasons. It helps that he guarantees you a couple of wickets.
I have decided to load my team with the Australian batsmen considering they are most likely to win this game if they bat first. David Warner, Steven Smith, Glenn Maxwell, Shane Watson, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc – all make their way in. Watson could be the differential here.
If India bat first though, in addition to Kohli and Dhoni, I would also bring in Ashwin. Instead of Shami, it will have to be Umesh Yadav – again due to budget reasons. If Yadav has one of his days, he could prove to be a handful under lights. From Australia, I will have to drop Hazlewood and Watson to accommodate the Indian players.
Shikhar Dhawan and Suresh Raina are two of the most notable omissions here. I don’t trust their ability when it comes to handling swing and bounce. They could be easy targets for Australia, especially if India bat second.
Australia vs New Zealand (Transfers remaining – 2)
The MCG is as flat as any deck you will come across; however, under lights it does help the bowlers a bit – expect the new ball to do some damage and the spinners to come into play.
Since I already have 6 Australian players, I only have to look at the New Zealand side of things for this match. If the Kiwis bowl first, it becomes easy: bring in Daniel Vettori and Kane Williamson. It wouldn’t be easy for Brendon McCullum to slog the likes of Mitchell Starc and Mitchell Johnson late in the day, so that rules him out. Martin Guptill is not technically the best one around to last the Australian pace attack, which rules him out too.
Tim Southee and Matt Henry would get no assistance from the deck if they bowl first. I bank on Vettori because Australians don’t play spin well. Also, since the ground is big, if they try to be aggressive against the veteran left-arm spinner, he will get the better of probably every single player in the team except Steven Smith. Williamson slots in as a result of the sheer quality he brings to the table.
Grant Elliott had plenty of luck going his way in the last match, which you can’t expect game in, game out. He isn’t a clean hitter, either. Ross Taylor has been struggling throughout the tournament, and it would be a miracle if he comes good at such a big stage.
If the Kiwis bat first, things become a little tricky: McCullum, Guptill, Williamson, Southee, Henry and Vettori – all of them are worth their weight in gold. Don’t buy into this theory that New Zealand will find it difficult to adapt to the ground dimensions. It is still a cricket ground, the players are professionals and this is one of the best teams in world cricket: a bigger ground doesn’t make a real difference, more so with the current fielding restrictions and a flat deck.
I have decided to go in with McCullum and Williamson. It will come down to how lucky you are as to who among the 6 end up with maximum points. There is no real choice here.