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World Cup 2019: ESPNcricinfo's fantasy cricket tips

Mohammed Shami starred with four wickets in India's dominant win Getty 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!

Game 38, England v India, Birmingham

Arjun Namboothiri, June 30

You know the song. You've seen the memes. But the tables have turned. It is the Indian fans who are singing "It's coming home." The big game is finally here. The two favourites go head-to-head in a high-stakes clash that has been the most anticipated of this World Cup. Edgbaston is the setting as England face a must-win scenario against a firing Indian side who'll be decked up in a new kit.

Your five must-haves

  • Rohit Sharma - The Rohit Sharma show has gone a bit quiet since his blistering start to the World Cup. He might have been unfortunate to be dismissed against West Indies and will be eager to make amends. He averages 44 against England and if you have to choose between him and Kohli, Rohit might be your differential pick. A slow track will also ease him into the game and you know what he's capable once he gets the feel of things.

  • Joe Root - When the two teams met just over a year ago, two hundreds in three ODIs from Root gave England a terrific series win. With two hundreds and three fifties in the World Cup so far, Root is not just a must-have, he could be your best pick for captain. A slow surface is perfect for Root, the master of rotating the strike. And he is not a bad player of spin either, is he?

  • Kuldeep Yadav - England will not have fond memories of his six-for in Nottingham in the series last year. With spin coming into play in Birmingham, Kuldeep will be itching to let that ball rip. He has not had the best of World Cups, but with his economy rate of 4.93 in that series and the potential to put pressure on England, you can see points everywhere.

  • Mohammed Shami - Picking the player in the hottest form is the fundamental rule of fantasy sports. The fire emoji has been beside Shami's name ever since his first ball of the World Cup, and two four-wicket hauls in two games are enough reason to give him a spot in your team.

  • Jos Buttler - India's superior bowling unit will be hunting for some wickets and Jos Buttler could be in before you know it. He loves a game against the Asian sides, but India have not been his favourite so far. Despite his below-par record against India, Buttler gets the nod just on recent form, his expertise against spin and his ball-striking prowess on home conditions

The budget buys

  • Moeen Ali and Kedar Jadhav - Both allrounders in their own right, Moeen more than Jadhav since he bowls a lot more. Both spinners who have conditions to be hopeful about. Both batsmen who can get you the runs when things don't go right at the top. Potential for points is plenty and therefore both are good picks in a high-stakes game which could be decided by small margins.

What we are watching out for

England against the India spinners. We know they have good players of spin, but can they do it under pressure against an unbeaten, in-form India side? Here we go.

Game 36, Afghanistan v Pakistan, Headingley

Srinath Sripath, June 29

Pakistan lost their warm-up game against the Afghans, but the tournament's gone in different directions for the two sides since then. For Pakistan, this is the first of two must-win league fixtures to give themselves the best shot at a semi-final spot, what with England going up against India and New Zealand in the run-in. They wouldn't want too much drama here, but Gulbadin's men have promised to "take you down along with us". Will today be the day?

Your five must-haves

  • Babar Azam - Babar finally made good on all those eye-catching starts he's had all tournament, on a day when it truly mattered, against New Zealand. Afghanistan's ramshackle bunch offer a chance to build on that form.

  • Mohammad Amir - He's been one of the best bowlers of the tournament, and has found his mojo after a prolonged lull which saw him pick up just five wickets since the start of 2018. A must-have whenever Pakistan are playing.

  • Mohammad Nabi - When Afghanistan beat Pakistan in the warm-up game, it was not Rashid Khan or Mujeeb Ur Rahman who troubled them, but Nabi with his canny offbreaks and pace variations. He hasn't been among the wickets in the last couple of games, but is dependable on most days. And if Pakistan run through the Afghanistan top order, Nabi could be the rock with the bat too.

  • Shadab Khan - Afghanistan have the second-lowest batting average against legspin since 2017, a struggle that has been a theme throughout this World Cup too. When Shadab has done well, Pakistan have too, so he is a fairly obvious pick for this game.

  • Haris Sohail - Pakistan's somewhat belated surprise package. Few of their batsmen have struck the ball as sweetly as he has in the past two games, at a run-a-ball or better that too. Keep him in your XI on the basis on current form alone.

The budget buys

  • Najibullah Zadran - Our fantasy blog has been willing him on to come good for the past few games, ever since he returned from being benched. He hasn't found the runs as he did at the start of the tournament, but remains Afghanistan's most prolific middle-order batsman in recent years. Continues to strike it well, so runs should possibly not be far away.

  • Shaheen Afridi - Bowled the best new-ball spell by a Pakistan pace bowler in a while, against New Zealand, en route to a match-winning 3 for 28. You wouldn't want to keep out a fast man from Pakistan on current form.

  • Wild Card - Mohammad Hasnain has been warming the bench throughout the league phase. As a young, exciting fast bowler who has breached the 150kph mark, there is word he could be unleashed on Afghanistan and, potentially, Bangladesh. He could be your x-factor, so watch out for team news at the toss.

What we're watching out for

Will Headingley continue to be the banana-peel venue? Having thrown the World Cup wide open with Sri Lanka's win over England, could there be another improbable upset on offer? Sri Lanka would sure hope so.

Game 37, New Zealand v Australia, Lord's

Gaurav Sundararaman, June 29

The Trans-Tasman rivalry resumes and the winner would stake claim for first spot. Who are the players likely to shine?

Your five must-haves

  • Mitchell Starc - Starc took four wickets against England and used his yorkers to great effect. He also took six wickets against New Zealand in the group-stage match in the 2015 World Cup. Starc has 18 wickets at 19.11 against the Kiwis and would be looking to add to the tally. Early pictures of the pitch indicate a good day for the quicks.

  • Lockie Ferguson - New Zealand's leading wicket-taker so far, Lockie has shown how raw pace can help claim wickets in the middle overs. He could play a big role against a slightly weak Australian middle order. Has flown under the radar with Trent Boult and Matt Henry around, but been the most effective of them all.

  • Kane Williamson - Has 414 runs in the tournament and been New Zealand's go-to man through this World Cup. Barring him, New Zealand's batting has underperformed so far, so much that Williamson's services have often been needed from the first over. He's only been dismissed once off pace in the entire tournament, and has a good record against Starc (never dismissed in 58 balls faced). Pat Cummins has taken his wicket twice in 85 deliveries, so if he can survive the opening spell, he will be in a good position to pile up another big score.

  • Aaron Finch and David Warner - The law of averages has not affected this pair so far. They have added more than 100 on four occasions and both of them have two centuries each. They play cautiously up front and set up the platform required for Australia to rack up those big scores. They average 76.6 per dismissal this tournament, the best among any Australian opening combination in World Cup history. In fact, these two have scored more runs than New Zealand, Bangladesh and West Indies' openers put together. One of them is likely to score big, and in fantasy cricket, it is best to have both rather than hedging with one of them

The budget buys

  • Trent Boult - Boult's World Cup seems to have just begun. The last two games have been his best so far and he is coming up against opponents he does very well against. He has two five-wicket hauls against the Aussies and averages 18 and strikes once every 21 balls. If the conditions at Lord's are similar to what we saw in the Australia-England game, Boult could be a serious threat early on. Who knows, he could be the one putting an end to the Australian openers' hot streak.

  • Martin Guptill - The leading run-getter of the 2015 World Cup seems to be struggling for form - 138 runs at an average of 27 and two first-ball dismissals sum up his tournament. Sheldon Cottrell and Mohammad Amir dismissed him early and with Mitchell Starc and Jason Beherendorff starting for Australia, Guptill could be in for some tough early overs facing left-arm swing and pace. For once, he would be looking to give Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor a platform.

Game 35, South Africa v Sri Lanka, Chester-le-Street

Arjun Namboothiri, June 28

More than a year after England successfully chased 310 against Australia, cricket returns to the Riverside in a contest of no little interest. Both sides are bruised, but one is coming off the upset of the World Cup that has woken the tournament from its slumber. The other, unfortunately, is out of the reckoning. Hard to pick a favourite here, but Sri Lanka are certainly roaring, screaming and are up and about, unlike their opponents.

Your five must-haves

  • Quinton de Kock and Faf du Plessis - They are not just South Africa's two leading run-scorers this World Cup, they were also the two leading run-scorers when the two sides met just over three months ago. South Africa swept that series 5-0 and boy, was de Kock rocking. A sequence of 81, 94, 121 and 51 is no mean feat and that makes him one of the best captain picks for this game. Du Plessis had a great series as well, and if South Africa want to take anything away from their World Cup campaign - as they must - du Plessis will have to lead from the front.

  • Lasith Malinga - A confident, raging fast bowler against a side that has had its worst World Cup is a dream combination. South Africa's middle-order batsmen David Miller, Aiden Markram and JP Duminy have all had terrible tournaments, and with Malinga at the death, they may need more than a bit of skill. Expect a few wickets.

  • Kusal Mendis - After two wretched games, we finally saw the Kusal Mendis we know against England. Not at his fluent best, but he showed enough to breathe some oxygen to a batting line-up that has lacked any kind of energy this World Cup. He is not the best fantasy option there is, looking at his strike rate, but if there is a top-order failure, Kusal Mendis could be the man to get you the runs.

  • Rassie van der Dussen - An average of 71 from 13 ODI innings does sound nice, but pick him for his World Cup form alone. With two half-centuries and a 41 to his name, we saw the best of van der Dussen against the New Zealand attack. He kept his cool, and even took on Lockie Ferguson in the final over. Sri Lanka, who don't boast of great middle-over bowling options, might just be the attack to spur him on to get a big one.

  • Avishka Fernando - He was the talk of the town when Sri Lanka beat England. Fernando came into bat at No. 3, smashed a 39-ball 49, among the most exciting knocks of this World Cup so far. His contribution gave Sri Lanka the platform but, more importantly, the confidence. With South Africa's bowlers in a bit of a funk, Avishka may be this game's X-factor.

  • Dhananjaya de Silva - He will be on a high after his three-for against England, and he didn't bowl too badly against Australia either. Chester-le-Street has traditionally been a seam-friendly venue, but seeing how South Africa have struggled against spinners, Dhananjaya could continue to excel. He's more than a handy batsman too, albeit lower down the order these days.

What we are watching out for

A contest worthy of a World Cup encounter, as opposed to a one-sided affair. Although Sri Lanka's hopes of a semi-final are still a bit far-fetched, they will be looking to win and give themselves the best chance. And please, South Africa, let's show them what you can do. The toss will be crucial as always, and someone from the team batting first should be your captain.

Game 34, West Indies v India, Old Trafford

Arjun Namboothiri, June 27

If West Indies pull their socks up and give India a run for their money, expect a high-scoring contest. If not, we can at least expect a Kohli half-century, an India win and move on to what looks set to be the thrilling end to the league phase of the World Cup.

Your five must-haves

  • Virat Kohli - What are you even doing if you don't pick the best ODI batsman in your team? Kohli will be itching to score his first hundred of the World Cup. Three fifties in his last three games have got him in the zone, and you wouldn't not have him in your team against a bowling attack who have lost a bit of steam in the second half of the tournament. The obvious pick for your captain

  • Sheldon Cottrell - A left-arm pacer against Rohit Sharma and Kohli is always a great battle. Both have been on the receiving end of the moving ball early on and Cottrell will look to exploit that weakness. His demolition act against New Zealand's top order is a positive sign for him after going two games without a wicket. How many salutes will we see in Manchester?

  • KL Rahul - He scored a lovely 57 against Pakistan on the same ground and with India's original opening pair broken up, Rahul will have a lot resting on his shoulders. If India go the same route they have gone so far this World Cup - handle the opening bowlers with caution - Rahul, once set, can have his sights on a big score. Most will pick Rohit ahead of him, but if you really want to move up the ladder, Rahul could be your differentiator. Obviously, if you have the purse and the slots, pick both!

  • Shimron Hetmyer - West Indies' top order is not really firing, and it's their middle order that has bailed them out time and again. In five games against India, Hetmyer averages 51, with an excellent hundred in Guwahati last year. He also has back-to-back fifties to his name, and his prowess against spin makes him a good pick for when India's spin twins get in the attack

  • Hardik Pandya - With Andre Russell out, the allrounder spot goes directly to Hardik. Runs, wickets, catches, strike rate, he has it all. Points are on offer if he walks in early, and on a wicket that promises runs, you know he can get a few big ones at the death too

The budget buys

  • Nicholas Pooran - Pooran's experience against India is limited to two T20Is and that makes him an interesting pick. He has hit a bit of a roadblock since his confident start to the tournament, and with West Indies searching for some runs in the middle order, Pooran will be eager to put some on the board

  • Kedar Jadhav - An outside pick from the plethora of stars in the India batting line-up. His resolute half-century against Afghanistan aside, he hasn't really got his chances, but if West Indies manage to seep through the India top order, Jadhav could be among the runs again. He hasn't bowled much yet - just four overs so far in the tournament - and against this West Indies batting order full of big hitters, might turn out to be Kohli's trump card

What we are watching out for

Fight, resilience and patience from West Indies who are still in semi-final contention, albeit by the slimmest of threads. India's misfiring middle order is another narrative that will grab eyeballs, and we know if the West Indian bowlers can smell fear, they will be ready to pounce.

Game 33, New Zealand v Pakistan, Birmingham

Arjun Namboothiri, June 26

Are you a dreamer? Then you must know that Pakistan are going to win this game. Are you a realist? Then you must know that New Zealand have the upper hand. Are you neither? Then you must know that this game is as unpredictable as any. We are talking about Pakistan here, so let's do the smart thing and not be smart with our predictions. A cracking, high-stakes game on offer at Edgbaston.

Your five must-haves

  • Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor - Every New Zealand game, these two are offered as a combo pack. New Zealand's two most reliable batsmen are also their two most in-form at this World Cup. In fantasy land, you only need to go as far as their last game to make your picks from their batting line-up. If you want history, Williamson averages 56 and Taylor averages 66 against Pakistan. Numbers from their recent ODI series against Pakistan in UAE make Taylor a slightly preferred pick.

  • Mohammad Hafeez - Hafeez has got starts at this World Cup but hasn't got to a hundred yet. Time for a big one you would guess? He would be eager to convert his 40s and 80s to a ton. With three left-handers in New Zealand's top and middle order, Hafeez also has the potential to pick up a wicket or two. And that my friends, is why you shouldn't ignore him for this game.

  • Lockie Ferguson - With 14 wickets at an average of 15 and an economy rate of 4.76, Ferguson is having a splendid World Cup. Remember West Indies' bounce barrage against Pakistan? Sorry to remind you about that Pakistan fans, but if the success of that tactic is anything to go by, Ferguson will be flexing his muscles for this game.

  • Babar Azam - A no-brainer. Pakistan's best ODI batsmen has two fifties and a 48 already at this World Cup. Pakistan will hope he can score big in an important match - more so following England's defeat to Australia. It's time for Babar, known for his level-headedness, to show what he's got in a high-pressure game. If you are brave, he is a great pick for the captain's arm-band as well - unless we have jinxed him already.

The budget buys

  • Colin de Grandhomme - De Grandhomme already has a feel of Edgbaston. He smashed 60 in New Zealand's win over South Africa. Runs he can offer, but there are wickets in him, too. He has picked up wickets in every game so far at this World Cup, but we are mainly picking him for his big hits. He is an outside pick to satisfy your risk appetite.

  • Haris Sohail - Ah Haris, where have you been? Has a senior player been taking your slot? What? Not anymore? His 89 in the last game against South Africa is enough reason to pick him, but scores of 41, 50, 75 scattered over his last seven innings in England give us hope that he has the potential for another match-winning innings. Pakistan have to win, and if their top order fails, Haris will need to step up.

What we're watching out for

There's plenty on offer: New Zealand's first big test, Pakistan's semi-final hopes, a great contest between bat and ball. On paper, a cracking game.

Game 32, England v Australia, Lord's

Gaurav Sundararaman, June 25

England have not beaten Australia in a World Cup match since 1992, while Australia have won only one match in their last 10 encounters against England. Australia require a win to qualify to the top four; England need a win to reduce some pressure after that shock defeat to Sri Lanka. Who are the players likely to help these teams win?

Your five must-haves

  • Joe Root and David Warner - Form is vital in a tournament like the World Cup. Root and Warner have both scored two centuries and have been key in setting up the foundation for the middle order to attack. In a high-pressure game, both would be looking to perform for their respective teams. Both batsmen do not have any significant weakness. If they survive the early overs there is a good chance they will reward you with fantasy points

  • Pat Cummins - His consistency with line and length could be useful on the Lord's pitch. Cummins can make use of the slope with his accurate bowling and if the conditions are overcast, it will suit him. Cummins had a poor game by his standards against Bangladesh, when he could not take a wicket

  • Mitchell Starc - England have used the services of Arjun Tendulkar in the nets to help them create similar angles that Starc does. Starc has been the go-to bowler for Finch this World Cup and has taken at least one wicket in his last 14 World Cup innings. He will use the slope to his advantage. If conditions are similar to the previous game played at this venue, Starc should be able to do some serious damage against the English batsmen

  • Jos Buttler - Many pundits predicted Buttler to be the Player of the Tournament. After starting off with a hundred and a fifty, his last two innings have yielded just 2 and 10 respectively. He is too good a player to miss out again, and there's no better time to show his prowess than against the Aussies. Buttler could be the player England turn to in this crucial match

The budget buys (with bonus dark horse)

  • Usman Khawaja - Khawaja showed what he is capable of in the game against Bangladesh, scoring 89 in quick time. With the openers providing a good platform in almost every match, Khawaja's role has been to build on the good starts. Back to his regular No. 3 position, he'd be looking to make a mark in his first ODI against England

  • Moeen Ali - Moeen has some very good match-ups against the Australian batsmen, namely Aaron Finch, Glenn Maxwell and Steven Smith. He has dismissed them on three or more occasions and would be looking to build on that streak. However, if England decide to go with an extra pace bowler, it would be interesting to see which spinner they drop. So far in the tournament he has been the one to miss out

  • The dark horse - Nathan Lyon could come into the picture, having had some good performances over England in Tests and the warm-up match before the tournament started. If he plays, he is not a bad option to have on the Lord's pitch

Game 31, Afghanistan v Bangladesh, Hampshire Bowl

Srinath Sripath, June 24

On paper and current form, this might seem like an utter mismatch, but given how close a battle this has been in recent times, Bangladesh would be relieved to get through with two comfortable points. Afghanistan, remember, are going to be playing their second game in three days, at a ground that must be a lot more familiar to them than it is to their opponents. Expect a close fight.

Your five must-haves

  • Shakib Al Hasan - Pick him because, Shakib. Because he's two players in one. And because he's probably the only player across all teams at this World Cup who's both his team's best batsman and best bowler

  • Mohammad Nabi - Nabi might take exception to that line on Shakib, his IPL team-mate, because he's been no less a talisman for Afghanistan. He reminded everyone of his value with a stellar all-round performance against India. Playing on the same ground, Nabi is poised to have another good day, at the very least, with the ball in hand

  • Rashid Khan - He hasn't had the greatest of tournaments, struggling early on and even conceding the worst figures by anyone in a World Cup game. Showed signs of return to form against India, on a pitch that had something in it for the spinners, with some of the longest boundaries to defend. Keep the faith in him

  • Mushfiqur Rahim - Arguably Bangladesh's best ODI batsmen in recent years, Mushfiqur cracked a blazing hundred against Starc and Co, as Bangladesh made a good fist of chasing down Australia's 381. It was the big knock that's always looked likely, and he could continue from where he left off against this Afghan attack

  • Mahmudullah - Bangladesh's quiet big-hitter down their batting order made merry along with Mushfiqur the other day. Play him just so you don't lose crucial strike rate points if he gets going late in the innings, especially considering at least one of Shakib and Mushfiqur fire on more days than not

The budget buys

  • Najibullah Zadran - He hasn't made big runs ever since being dropped from Afghanistan's XI in the middle of the World Cup, but as their most consistent middle order batsman in recent times, is due a performance

  • Liton Das - Sure he's one of the most exciting young batsmen going around, sure he took it to India in the Asia Cup final, but did anyone see Liton becoming a middle-order success story for Bangladesh? Has produced some of the cleanest hitting from a Bangladesh batsman in the last couple of games, and could carry on from where he left off

What we're watching out for

Will the Hampshire Bowl continue to have more assistance for the bowlers like it has through the tournament? If the toss-winning captain decides to bowl first, you might be better off choosing a bowling captain yourself. The more conventional option, as always, remains backing one of Bangladesh's big guns to come good with the bat

Game 30, Pakistan v South Africa, Lord's

Srinath Sripath, June 23

Time's running out for Pakistan. It's around this point that they have turned around their campaigns in the past. For South Africa, it's game over for all practical purposes, and both teams need two points for differing reasons.

Your five must-haves

  • Babar Azam - Pakistan's best (and among their most in-form) batsman. For a while now, he's been due a big score. Was their leading run-getter when Pakistan toured South Africa earlier this year.

  • Imran Tahir - It' hard to imagine Tahir is playing his final ODI tournament, seeing his control and consistency for the best part of the World Cup. If not for a missed review for a catch during his final over against New Zealand, who knows, South Africa may have been in the frame for a top-four spot going into this game.

  • Mohammad Amir - With 13 wickets from four games, Amir not only remains Pakistan's highest wicket-taker so far, but also their best bowler by a distance. Early wickets remain a problem, but that shouldn't affect your fantasy points too much since he's claimed a bagful at the death.

  • Chris Morris - He might not be the beast hitter he used to be a couple of years ago, when hardly a fantasy team existed without him, but Morris still remains a force with the ball in this South African attack plagued by injury troubles. Against New Zealand on a sticky wicket, Morris struck at crucial times to nearly take them over the line. A form-based pick for this game.

  • Kagiso Rabada - The only time Rabada played an ODI at Lord's, he ran through the English batting order with figures of 4 for 39, making full use of early assistance and the ground's slope. He's been effective against left-handers at the World Cup (3 wickets at 24.7) and coming up a lineup with its fair share of lefties, could have a field day.

The budget buys

  • Aiden Markram - Markram has a 45 and a 38 so far at this World Cup, both innings in which he looked fluent, before getting out without making the most of his starts. If he can survive the Amir burst early on, there could be yet more runs for him today.

  • Imam-ul-Haq - A hot-and-cold year that began with runs in South Africa (271 at average 51.2) is now in danger of being remembered for a drought at the World Cup for Imam. He's struggled against pace early on, but a South Africa attack he made merry against not so long ago, offers one of his last chances to turn the campaign around. Could be a differential pick.

What we're watching out for

Rabada versus Pakistan's two left-handed openers early on. Should Faf du Plessis win the toss and opt to bowl, you should consider him among your options for 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