<
>

World Cup 2019: ESPNcricinfo's fantasy cricket tips

Lockie Ferguson looks on in the field PA Images

So you are an avid fantasy cricket player looking for recommendations for your XI before every World Cup game? Look no further than ESPNcricinfo's rolling fantasy blog, where we bring you picks from our expert fantasy players, including the global IPL 2019 fantasy champion, ESPN staffer Arjun Namboothiri, and Gaurav Sundararaman, the former analyst for various T20 teams and a fantasy cricket nerd. If you're playing daily fantasy contests, our five must-haves and trump cards should have you covered. Also, we'll keep track of how our picks fare in each game. Here we go!

Final: England v New Zealand, Lord's

Gaurav Sundararaman, July 13

After six weeks and 47 matches, here we are. An unexpected match-up, some might say, but both teams deserve to be there. England are on a three-match winning streak, while New Zealand are fresh off eliminating India. England are not only winning, but are annihilating oppositions. The last time these two met, the game was lost in the first ten overs when England's opening pair added more than 100. England go in as favourites, and it would be ideal to stack up your fantasy team with their players, along with a few match-winners from New Zealand.

Your five must-haves

  • Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow: Roy and Bairstow are extremely critical to England's chances of lifting the World Cup. They rarely both fail on the same day. By picking them in your fantasy team, the risk is somewhat balanced. They have added a century stand on four occasions - the most by any pair in a single tournament. England would be hoping for one last big performance from both, or at least one, of them.

  • Kane Williamson: The reason New Zealand are in the final is mainly due to the performances of skipper Williamson. He needs a century to become the leading run-getter of the World Cup and the final at Lord's is the perfect stage to get there. Since 2013, Williamson has been dismissed for less than 40 in England only once in 17 innings. England is his favourite country to bat, where he averages 71.73 with four centuries and nine half-centuries in 22 innings. New Zealand's World Cup fortunes are highly dependent on Williamson, and you'd be a brave person to not have him in your fantasy team.

  • Joe Root:Root has two roles - play anchor in case an early wicket falls, or to keep the tempo going if there has been a good opening stand. He has performed both these roles at various junctures in the tournament, and done very well. His record against New Zealand is impressive, averaging 57.81 and scoring at 92.59, with three hundreds. Like Williamson, Root is also a century away from becoming the tournament's highest run-getter. Root has to be there in your fantasy team.

  • Trent Boult: Boult's early spell could be one of the key factors in deciding which way the game goes. The slope at Lord's and the morning start could help him in case New Zealand bowl first. He has dismissed Roy and Bairstow five times in his career and will be the key bowler if New Zealand are to break the opening stand early.

The budget buys

    Lockie Ferguson: Ferguson did not play the league game against England, and he could be a surprise package in this final. He has been a nightmare for teams in the middle overs, where he's played the role of an enforcer. Boult and Ferguson have been two of the tournament's leading bowlers at the death, with an economy of under seven per over. Along with Mitchell Starc, Ferguson has taken the most number of wickets (12) in the middle overs in the tournament, and has the best average and economy rate too.

    Chris Woakes and Jofra Archer: Woakes was the man of the match in the semi-final, and Archer got some key breakthroughs up top. These two have been the pillars of England's bowling attack this World Cup, and for England to emerge victorious, Woakes' returns in the Powerplay and Archer's returns at the death hold the key. Woakes' economy in Powerplay in wins is 3.9, and he has taken five wickets. Archer's economy at the death is 3.3 for England's wins, and he has picked up five wickets in that period. In wins, Archer has conceded a boundary once in 27 balls whereas in losses, it is once in eight balls.

    What we're watching out for

    The toss. The Root-Williamson race up the run-scoring chart. Boult v Bairstow and Roy, which could well decide the game.

    2nd Semi-final: Australia v England, Edgbaston

    Gaurav Sundararaman, July 11

    The familiar foes face off for one last time at this World Cup, and it will be one of the biggest matches that England have played in a long time. Australia have never lost a semi-final in a World Cup, and England would be looking to break that record. Which players are likely to do well under pressure? Here's our attempt at recommending the best picks for your fantasy team.

    Your five must-haves

    • David Warner - Hard to look past him. Through the tournament, he has been very good and performed very consistently. Warner has a chance at becoming the leading run-getter in the World Cup, and has a shot at going past Sachin Tendulkar's tally of 673 runs in the 2003 edition. Warner missed out on a century in the league game against England, and his biggest challenge will be against Chris Woakes. He has been dismissed by Woakes thrice, scoring just 63 runs from 94 balls. If he gets past Woakes, Warner should be able to keep his run going. He is yet to score big in a World Cup knockout game, and would look to ensure his fate isn't the same as that of Rohit Sharma

    • Mitchell Starc - Unless something dramatic happens, Starc is likely to finish this World Cup as the leading wicket-taker for the second consecutive edition. Will he be able to take his team to the finals to meet New Zealand again? If the league match was anything to go by, Starc has the advantage over England's batsmen. He has some good match-ups against them, having dismissed Morgan thrice, Roy four times and Stokes twice. If England have to make the final, they need to get past Starc first

    • Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow - Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow have opened five times in this World Cup. They failed in the first two innings, but have ensured they've put on a century-plus opening stand the last three times they've opened together. England have lost just one game when the pair put on a century opening partnership, and have won 83% of the matches when they have put on at least 50 runs. Roy, who missed the league game against Australia, loves playing against them, having made over 750 runs at an average of 47.4 and a incredible strike rate of 114. His three centuries against them are his most against any opposition, and he could prove the difference between the two teams

    • Joe Root - Root had a rare failure against Australia in the league match. In what is set to be one of the biggest matches in his career, Root would be motivated to anchor the innings going in case they lose an early wicket. He has 63 runs from 70 balls while being dismissed twice against left-arm pace bowlers, and should he see through Jason Behrendorff and Starc, he would give himself a good chance to score big

    The budget buys

    • Nathan Lyon - Lyon has taken three wickets and gone at 4.6 runs per over in this World Cup. With all the focus on wristspinners, Lyon has quietly gone under the radar and put up some good bowling performances. Australia have omitted Adam Zampa for a more conservative option in Lyon, to make sure he keeps one end tight while the pace trio of Mitchell Starc, Jason Behrendorff and Pat Cummins look for wickets from the other. It has worked in their favour so far: of the 48 bowlers who have bowled 20 or more overs in the 11-40 over phase, Lyon is the most economical. Like most off-spinners, Lyon has had a lot more success against left-handers than right-handers in the tournament. With England playing Morgan and Stokes at No.4 and No.5, it could turn out to be an interesting duel

    • Chris Woakes - The last time Woakes bowled against Australia in the league phase, he troubled the Australian openers without getting a breakthrough. He has been brilliant with the new ball in the last couple of games, and could be the key to England's success on Thursday. He started with three maidens against India at the same venue and would be looking for early breakthroughs. With the bat, Woakes has scored 195 runs from 264 balls, and has taken 4 wickets at an economy of 4.43 in the first 10 overs. With some luck, Woakes could add to his wicket column in the Powerplay, especially given his aforementioned favourable match-up against Warner

    What we're watching out for

    How England deal with Australia's mighty opening pair, and vice-versa. And if called to action, how Australia's middle order steps up after middling returns through the tournament.

    1st Semi-final: India v New Zealand, Manchester

    Arjun Namboothiri, July 9

    If "Doc" from Back to the Future was real and he did really invent time-travel, you would have just fast forwarded to this day right at the start of the World Cup, wouldn't you? Thought so. But you would have missed the Rohit Sharma tons, the Cottrell salutes and the chaotic beauty of the Pakistan cricket team. Well, we are here now. Manchester is the setting, and while India might go in as favourites, there is excitement in the air. Let me warn you though, the picks for this game are as easy as they get.

    Your five must-haves

    • Rohit Sharma - The tournament's leading scorer. Manchester has already seen a Rohit masterclass against Pakistan, so don't be surprised if you see another. He's in red-hot form at the moment, and an easy pick for the game.

    • Kane Williamson - Williamson is the force that has taken New Zealand this far, and a force that can play the anchor, the rescue act or the enforcer in any game, any conditions. He made a typically Williamson-esque 148 at Old Trafford earlier this tournament against West Indies, and could be your first-choice captain pick.

    • Virat Kohli - He's not exactly set the tournament alight like he usually does, but he's been there among the runs, like he usually does. Kohli is also a big-match player, and will be hungry to take his team through in Manchester. His average of 68 against New Zealand makes his case stronger. It's been long since we've seen him take that leap and lift his helmet, haven't we? Maybe the time has come.

    • Trent Boult - Boult ran through India's top order in the warm-up game between these two, got Rohit out early, and has a favourable head-to-head record against the tournament's record-breaking run-getter. There has been overnight rain in Manchester and with conditions are expected to be overcast, with spells of showers in between. In such a scenario, you can't avoid having Boult in your XI, irrespective of when New Zealand bowl.

    • Hardik Pandya - You need wickets in the middle overs, and Hardik's cutters and bouncers have helped all tournament. You need runs in the final overs, and Hardik's big-hitting has come to the fore. With so much potential for points, he could easily be your captain. Manchester has seen two types of pitches so far - the flat 300-plus deck, and occasionally the slower track, and both will suit Hardik's multiple skillsets. Seam bowlers have picked up more wickets here, so he becomes a huge asset going into this game.

    The budget buys

    • Lockie Ferguson - New Zealand's fire-breathing wicket-taker is back in the XI, and there is every reason for India's middle order to be worried if they lose early wickets. Two, three or four wickets down, with Ferguson bowling to Rishabh Pant, MS Dhoni and Dinesh Karthik, would be a contest New Zealand fans will relish. He has shown to be great in a range of different conditions so far, and he's easily the best-bowler pick for the day.

    • Jimmy Neesham - Fantasy sport craves a player like this. Someone, who can not only do everything, but do it when you need him the most. Under pressure. And that's where the Neesh has potential. Williamson trusts him (think of that over to Carlos Brathwaite), and he has been racking up the points (second-best for New Zealand behind Williamson). We don't see how that will stop.

    Bonus

    • Rishabh Pant - India's unlikely No.4 has long been touted as their 'X-factor', and that's exactly why he is such a great fantasy asset. During the IPL playoffs when I was catching up with the top 20s of the fantasy cricket world, making Pant my vice-captain was the best move ever. A different tournament, different format and different conditions, but Pant's ability to change the game can still be the key to every fantasy team's success. His 48 and 32 against Bangladesh and England should be enough to give you hope.

    What we are watching out for

    New Zealand putting up a good fight as they tend to do, and a contest that is worthy of a semi-final. India's middle-order batsmen against New Zealand's bowlers is another mini-contest that is likely to shape how this game goes. In the end, it's the excitement we crave after all, the nerves and all the emotion that make for an occasion like this to be recalled 20 years later. Let the games begin

    Game 45, Australia v South Africa, Old Trafford

    Gaurav Sundararaman, July 6

    Australia and South Africa face off in the last match of the league stage. Australia have everything to play for as they look to finish at the top so that they can play New Zealand, as well as stay in Manchester for their semi-final. For South Africa, it is a matter of pride to finish the tournament on a high. In the history of ODIs Australia have beaten South Africa 48 times while the latter have won 47 times. One more win would mean an even record against Australia, which not many teams can boast of. More reason for South Africa to go for a consolation win!

    Your five must-haves

    • David Warner and Mitchell Starc - Australia's leading run-getter and the overall leading wicket-taker this tournament. Starc has been in scintillating form every single game, taking wickets whenever the team has needed one. He will hope to continue the same against a batting line-up that is short on confidence and possibly can't wait to get back home. Warner, on the other hand, will be playing his first game against South Africa since the sandpapergate scandal, and looking to do well against them. He is yet to be dismissed by Kagiso Rabada in ODIs and that battle will be interesting to watch

    • Imran Tahir - Playing his last ODI, Tahir will be determined to leave on a high. Tahir was an instant success on his ODI debut in 2011, averaging only 10.7 runs per wicket in his first year. He has had the number over Australia captain Aaron Finch and ex-captain Steven Smith, with the duo averaging just 28 (dismissed three times ) and 18 (dismissed twice) respectively against him. Don't be surprised if Tahir is introduced straightaway in the Powerplay, with Kagiso Rabada

    • Quinton de Kock and Faf du Plessis - A large share of South Africa's hopes in the World Cup depended on these two players. Unfortunately, both have not lived up to the expectations. Du Plessis has a 96 and a 63 to his name in his last two innings and a great record against Australia. He has four centuries against them, averaging 51.57. De Kock has had a problem against left-arm pacers, but if he gets through Starc, he could play a big role. He has two centuries against Australia and averages 33.66. No one from South Africa has scored a century yet in this tournament, and the last game could be the one where their batsmen sign off on a high

    The budget buys

    • Nathan Lyon - If control is what Australia want from their spinner, they are getting it with Lyon. He has given away just 79 runs in the 19 overs he has bowled so far in the World Cup. Of the 68 bowlers who have bowled 100 balls or more in the tournament, Lyon is the third-most economical bowler, conceding just 4.2 runs per over. He could be a good option against the left-handers in the South Africa middle order

    • Glenn Maxwell - Maxwell has had a pretty poor World Cup till date. A lot was expected from Maxwell, but time is running out. Barring a strong innings against Sri Lanka, Maxwell has not gotten going with the bat. On as many as three occasions, he had a chance to come in early and play the big innings, but each time, he gave his wicket away. Australia have some serious challenges ahead in the knockouts if Maxwell does not find form. From a fantasy perspective, it is a risk worth taking, because with Maxwell, when it rains, it always pours

    What we are watching out for

    Warner v Rabada - The battle commences after a gap. Warner has 135 runs from 102 balls without being dismissed by Rabada. But the battle is far from over. While in Tests, Rabada has dismissed Warner on four occasions, the Australia opener has the upper hand in the shorter format. This will be a battle worth watching on a day when there is a lot more at stake than just two points

    Game 44, India v Sri Lanka, Leeds

    Srinath Sripath, July 6

    The tournament might be done and dusted for Sri Lanka - even their position on the points table is locked at No. 6, win or lose this game - but India have something to play for here. A win could give them the best chance of topping the table, should Australia slip up in the final league game later in the day.

    Your five must-haves

    • Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli - At this point, your two easiest picks for an India game. They've made close to 50% of India's runs at this World Cup, and come with a near-assurance of a fifty-plus score every time. Rohit's got four hundreds already, but it's Kohli's lack of one that should make him the first pick against his favourite opponents. An average of over 59 doesn't lie!

    • Kusal Perera - The leading light of Sri Lanka's campaign with the bat, Kusal's boundary-hitting abilities have kickstarted Sri Lanka to two of the tournament's top three Powerplay scores. Quick, early runs and strike rate points are what you would get if Kusal gets going

    • Jasprit Bumrah - Those yorkers are searing in, the wickets are finally coming after a consistent showing throughout the tournament. Bumrah's only five-wicket haul in ODIs is against Sri Lanka, and he has incredible numbers against them. On current form and past history, he's got to make it to your XI, assuming he isn't rested

    • Hardik Pandya - He's been among the runs, he's picking up crucial wickets, and almost surprisingly, flying under the radar even in fantasy cricket. His utility in a range of situations makes him a fantasy favourite - late runs while accelerating batting first, going big in a chase, coming on to pick up wickets if the opening bowlers haven't struck, bowling later on to mop up the lower order. Keep him in

    The budget buys

    • Avishka Fernando - He still comes on the cheap in fantasy cricket, but his runs and the way he's made them have put Avishka among your must-haves for this game. Sri Lanka's youngest World Cup centurion and the third-youngest of all time, he has finally infused some excitement after what has been a dreary couple of years in Sri Lankan ODI batting

    • Yuzvendra Chahal - This might just come across as a surprise, but Chahal is still among the cheaper bowlers you can pick in your fantasy XI. He's gone for runs, but the fact that he's India's third-highest wicket-taker is what should matter for you. He's due a performance since that four-for in the opening game against South Africa, and today could be that day

    What we are watching out for

    Kohli and Co versus Lasith Malinga. He's not on our fantasy picks for a reason: India's batsmen have largely played him well in ODI cricket, but considering his current wicket-taking form and throwbacks to his peak years, can he get one back at the Indian batting line-up?

    Game 43, Pakistan v Bangladesh, Lord's

    Arjun Namboothiri, July 5

    Dead rubber. Pakistan technically have a chance to reach the semifinal, but they'll have to pull off something that has never been done in international cricket, which is win by over 300 runs. Despite that, we have a cracking game on our hands and the funny thing is, Bangladesh come here as slight favourites, despite Pakistan being the team that have a chance to fight for the top four.

    Your five must-haves

    • Babar Azam - Pakistan's leading run-scorer at this World Cup, and if you have followed Babar over the past year or so, you wouldn't have predicted anything less. His last four innings have yielded scores of 45, 101*, 69 and 48, and if you believe all the hype, you know who your captain should be. Easy pick

    • Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim - Two more easy picks for the game. Shakib is not just Bangladesh's highest points scorer, he is the best overall in this World Cup across teams. Safest captain choice without a doubt. Mushfiqur probably has one more hundred in him for the tournament, following one hundred and two 70+ scores in the lead-up to this game. Pakistan are not his favourite opponents but the last time he played them, he scored a solid 99 in Abu Dhabi and took home the man-of-the-match award

    • Mohammad Amir - He loves a big occasion, and despite the mammoth task ahead of Pakistan, Amir will want to move up the charts of the leading wicket-takers. Interestingly, he has never played an ODI against Bangladesh and that might work in his favour

    • Mustafizur Rahman - Another bowler you can put your money on. After his excellent five-for against India, Bangladesh's bowling spearhead looks in the mood to rattle any opposition. Pakistan don't bat very deep and that will see Mustafizur come into play in the middle, and most definitely at the death. He got a four-for the last time he played Pakistan, so go get some Fizz in your side

    The budget buys

    • Haris Sohail - It was the Lord's game against South Africa that made him un-droppable at this World Cup. His 89 was a confident innings full of maturity and we are looking at that streak continuing on his return to Lord's. Bangladesh are a couple of quality bowlers short in the middle overs, and that is where Haris can come good.

    • Soumya Sarkar - Your wild card pick for the game and this time he is considered becauseā€¦..he has started picking up crucial wickets. Rohit Sharma, David Warner, Aaron Finch and Usman Khawaja are his scalps this World Cup so far, and we know how part-timers can do against Pakistan. He's had a sub-par tournament with the bat, but that doesn't mean he can't perform in this game. We are quite honestly picking him up for his batting and if he can see out Amir early on, you never know

    What we are watching out for

    An even contest between bat and ball and some spice in the Asian rivalry that has lost some of its heat. Whether Pakistan even remotely try to win this by 300+ runs is also something we are eager to find out

    Game 42, Afghanistan v West Indies, Leeds

    Arjun Namboothiri, July 4

    A difficult game to call, but here we are, aren't we? Despite losing against Sri Lanka, West Indies come into the game on a bit of a high, and we have Afghanistan who will be eager to give their large contingent of fans something to remember, write in their diaries, and cherish for a lifetime.

    Your five must-haves

    • Jason Holder and Sheldon Cottrell - These two have been the top fantasy point-getters for West Indies this World Cup. The numbers are not great, but there is reason to go with them against a batting side that hasn't been clicking. A slow wicket will aid them too, but more importantly both of them are in form. Holder has Karunaratne, Angelo Mathews, KL Rahul and Virat Kohli as his last four wickets, while Cottrell has seven scalps in the last three games

    • Gulbadin Naib - In terms of points, Afghanistan's World Cup rockstar and leader is ahead of both Holder and Cottrell. His potential for runs at the top of the order and his medium-pace make him among the more obvious picks from the Afghan side. He had a forgettable match against Pakistan, and will be eager to make amends

    • Chris Gayle - This will most definitely be his swansong from World Cup cricket, and he would want to go out on a high. By his standards, we haven't seen the Gayle of old this World Cup. Two fifties and a near-hundred against New Zealand are what he's had to show for. Risky pick for captain, but what's fantasy cricket without taking a chance?

    • Mohammad Nabi - On paper, arguably the best allrounder playing this game, but on form, Nabi is a no-no, unlessā€¦.you saw him trouble the Pakistan middle order with flight and deception, didn't you? That game was played on the same ground, and it was Nabi who used the slowness of the pitch very well. He has potential for points with his bowling, but a fifty against India also gives hope that there are chances he could click with the bat too

    The budget buys

    • Nicholas Pooran - He could have easily been in the top shelf of this blog entry, but we are putting him here because he is the best potential budget buy for today. A brilliant hundred against Sri Lanka has put him on the world map, and that means he is already an outside pick for captain. A Nabi-sized threat awaits him, but he likes a good challenge. West Indies' leading run-getter this World Cup will want to finish the tournament on a high

    • Kemar Roach - Your X-factor for the day. Roach could replace Shannon Gabriel if he recovers on time, and looking at what Leeds has offered so far, he would make for a perfect fit. He showed what he could do on a slowish track against India with a three-for, and his immaculate line and length could just be the right ingredients for an Afghan collapse. You outside pick for today

    What we are watching out for

    Chris Gayle v Rashid Khan for starters, and a reason to switch on the television set. Nobody likes a dead rubber, but one massive performance can spice up everyone's day. You wouldn't mind a Chris Gayle 150 in what could be his last World Cup game, would you?

    Game 41, England v New Zealand, Chester-le-Street

    Arjun Namboothiri, July 3

    It's not come home yet, and it's a big, big game at the Riverside Ground. Both teams have to win - although New Zealand's decent net run rate sees them all but through. A defeat for England coupled with a Pakistan win will see them crashing out. But, England are on the ascendancy and by the looks of it, the conditions are going to suit them. Lockie Ferguson's absence gives them a massive edge.

    Your five must-haves

    • Kane Williamson - The name is enough. The numbers: 454 runs at an average of over 100, with two hundreds so far. England will have a plan for him, but he's among the finest of this generation - you already know that don't you? Oh, and he's now bowling too

    • Joe Root - England's Mr. Dependable will be eager to get runs on the board as he always does. With a bit of green on the surface, an early wicket might bring Root in early, and he's eyeing his third hundred for this World Cup. Another easy choice, he averages a solid 60 against New Zealand. Get him in

    • Trent Boult - New Zealand's bowling spearhead has finally got among the wickets after a slow start. Not that he wasn't in his elements earlier, just that the rewards have started to come. He now has nine wickets in the last three games, and is a potent weapon at the death. Death bowlers on batting friendly tracks are a must-have in fantasy cricket

    • Ben Stokes - Another fantasy delight. Points with both bat and ball, and with him batting ahead of Jos Buttler, which gives you enough chance for you to score big. In a crunch situation, Ben Stokes is also often given the ball to find the breakthrough and so expect a few wickets if New Zealand are in the zone. He is among the top seven in terms of most points scored this World Cup, so he becomes a very good captain pick

    • Jason Roy - Where have you been, Mr. Roy? Fantasy cricket has missed you. He made a solid 66 on his comeback from injury, and has had a very good World Cup so far. You can easily see why England missed him. For me, he comes directly into the team on a good wicket because Roy not just has a hundred in him, he could carry on further like he did against Bangladesh

    The budget buys

    • Jimmy Neesham - The Neesh was unleashed against Pakistan. He can give you runs if the top order fails, and wickets on a track that might assist a medium-pacer. He's been New Zealand's second-best on the fantasy points stakes after Williamson, and in such an important game, he will want to make an impact

    • Liam Plunkett - Plunkett showed what he can do against India on a hard wicket. He is the perfect ODI middle-overs bowler and England will call upon his services to break the Williamson-Taylor partnership. He has also played a fair bit of county cricket on this ground, so that could stand him in good stead too

    What we are watching out for

    A run-fest that will be watchable. "The sun has had its hat on, and the pitch is full of runs," reads our match preview and that's why a batsman should be your captain.

    Arjun Namboothiri is an ESPN India staffer who won the IPL 2019 global fantasy competition. Gaurav Sundararaman is a fantasy cricket nerd who has won ESPNcricinfo's office fantasy league multiple times. Srinath Sripath is a fantasy game veteran who makes the odd podium finish across cricket and football leagues