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ICC Champions Trophy 2017: Preview & Top Fantasy Cricket picks

Bored of playing the same old fantasy cricket league? Ready to try something new this ICC Champions Trophy? Read on…

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To help you pick your winning combo, we have set out below our team previews and key players. Happy fantasy-ing!

Group A

England, Bangladesh, Australia, New Zealand.

England

One of the front-runners and favourites to win Group A, Morgan’s merry men have slipped nicely into their groove with a series win over South Africa, the world’s number 1 ODI side.

Players to watch

Ben Stokes

High on confidence, this million-dollar man helped the Pune Supergiant make the IPL finals this year. A game changer with bat and ball, Stokes is an asset any team would love to have. Leading up to the Champions Trophy, he has two centuries in his last six innings. The only question mark remaining is over his fitness..

Jason Roy

Although he’s been in relatively poor form of late, Jason Roy is the man for big occasions. Although he averages just 18 in the last 3 months, his overall ODI average is still at nearly 40 in all ODIs, striking at over 100. England look fierce if he fires in partnership with Hales at the top.

Mark Wood

In a team usually known for their fast bowling prowess, Wood seems underwhelming with just 14 ODIs under his belt at age 27. However, he brings real pace, consistently clocking 148-149 kmph, which can get some serious bite on English pitches. He will be a real threat in partnership with Plunkett and Stokes and his match-winning last over on Saturday will have done his confidence no harm whatsoever.

Bangladesh

Despite having missed out on the last two editions of the ICC Champions Trophy (in 09 and 13), in an unusual twist, Bangladesh is ranked #6 at the start of the tournament, which puts them ahead of both Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

Players to watch

Tamim Iqbal

What does one say about Tamim? This little powerhouse has been a key reason for Bangladesh’s success in the past 2-3 years. He even racked up another century in the warm-up against Pakistan, and his current form is superb – he averages over 80 since April.

Mashrafe Mortaza

Captain Mortaza brings as much to the field with his leadership and experience, as he does with his bowling. While not the explosive wicket-taker, he can be relied on to pick up 1-2 wickets per game and keep the economy rate down – his career ODI economy rate is just 4.75.

Mustafizur Rahman

Unlike his experienced compatriots, the 21-year old “fizz” burst onto the scene in 2016 and had a great IPL that year, picking up 17 wickets with the lowest economy rate among bowlers with 13 or more wickets. Opposition batsmen may look to play out his overs but it won’t be easy – he’s picked up two 4-fors in his last six outings.

Australia

The World Cup champions and always a force to reckon with. The Aussies are currently embroiled in a pay dispute with Cricket Australia and have made it clear that winning the ICC Champions Trophy is their priority. Write them off at your own peril.

Players to watch

Pat Cummins

Aussie cricket fans will be thrilled that Cummins returned to full fitness and played lots of IPL recently. Given his incredible run in the 2011-12 season, it’s hard to believe had has just turned 24. In partnership with Starc, Hazlewood and Pattinson, the Aussie fast bowling line-up is the best in this year’s tournament.

Steve Smith

Test average of 61, ODI average of 43, and an incredible test season in India this spring. Smith is Australia’s captain supreme and undoubtedly one of the best batsmen in the world at the moment.

Chris Lynn

A rather polarizing figure, Lynn is by no means guaranteed a spot in the playing XI. However, his T20 record is outstanding – he averages nearly 37 at a strike rate of nearly 150 after 92 matches. If he can translate even a tiny bit of that form into the first 15 overs, Australia will be sitting pretty early on.

New Zealand

The World Cup runners-up and winners of the ICC Champions Trophy’s previous avatar, the ICC knock-out, in 2000. The Kiwis are not seen as minnows any longer and their qualification for the semis will not be seen as a fluke or an upset.

Players to watch

Kane Williamson

With an average of 46 and 29 half-centuries under his belt, Williamson is undoubtedly one of the world’s top batsmen at the moment. Those who worried about his strike rate would have been pleasantly surprised by his stunning 89 off just 51 balls in his first IPL 2017 match.

Colin de Grandhomme

A poor man’s Ben Stokes, CdG at age 30 has lots of first-class experience but very little international experience, having played just 9 ODIs. However, with a first class average over 35 with the bat and more than 200 wickets with the ball, he’s an asset at #7 for New Zealand.

Trent Boult

Although he lost his spot to Woakes for most of the IPL 2017 season, Boult offers incredible variety in the powerplay and the death overs. He has 87 ODI wickets from just 48 outings, with an economy rate of under five runs an over  – figures that most fast bowlers would take in a heartbeat.

Group A qualifier predicition: England and Australia.

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Group B

Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, India.

Pakistan

Which Pakistan will turn up? Will it be the world-beating team we know they can be or will they lose direction in their first major tournament without Misbah and Afridi? No one knows but it promises to be crazy exciting!

Players to watch

Ahmed Shehzad

Shehzad has been around for many years now and although he is only 25, this is his chance to show that he is a talent to be retained. He has been given a number of chances and even though he has had some promising opening performances in the past, his ODI average is only 33. Pakistan’s strength has always been their bowling and if they are to make it to the semis in the tournament, Shehzad will have to make significant contributions on the batting front.

Mohammad Amir

England is where Amir’s career ended in 2010 and it’s where he made his comeback. As his love-hate relationship with English crowds continues, Pakistan will be looking to Amir for some early wickets and yorkers at the death. He has picked up 50 ODI wickets in 32 matches and on his day can scythe through the best batting line-up.

Wahab Riaz

Wahab will be remembered for his menacing spell against Australia in the 2015 World Cup. He almost single-handedly turned that game around in Pakistan’s favour and, with more luck, would have won it for them. A wholehearted cricketer, expect him to extract some pace and bounce on English pitches!

South Africa

South Africa somehow managed to lose the ODI series against England, raising old doubts about their pedigree at ICC tournaments. Chokers or champions? Only time will tell.

Players to watch

Quinton De Kock

Despite having Amla, DeVilliers and Duminy in the side, South Africa will be looking to De Kock to continue his sublime form. He averages 43 in ODIs and is coming into the tournament with 98 in his last innings against England. He paces his innings fantastically well and his keeping is always neat.

AB de Villiers

ABdV comes into the tournament after a poor IPL but how does one write off the man with the fastest hundred of all time? Expect fireworks from the South African skipper.

Kagiso Rabada

Only 22 years of age, Rabada has proved that he is a genuine fast bowler, one who can bowl at 150 kmph. South Africa will want to unleash him early in the league stage – the other three teams are from the sub-continent and may not be comfortable playing stuff directed at their throats.

Sri Lanka

With their stalwarts retired, a new look Sri Lankan team starts off as the underdogs. They will try hard but lack the firepower to make it out of the group.

Players to watch

Angelo Matthews

Skipper Angelo would want to script a dream story for them – without any super stars, we believe he will have to play a crucial leadership role so that everyone in the team contributes to its success. He will be feeling reasonably confident having picked up a century in a warm-up match.

Thisara Perera

We are picking Perera as one of the key players due to his experience in the last few years with IPL and his all round cricketing ability. He will be important in the slog overs and has a knack of picking up wickets. Although he averages only 17 in ODIs his big hitting can be important especially when Sri Lanka chases

Niroshan Dickwella

Dickwella is an explosive left hand wicket keeper batsman, one that Sri Lanka hopes will fill Sangakara’s boots. While that is a herculean task, Sri Lanka will look to him to continue his aggressive style of batting. He is coming back from a hairline fracture injury and will want to make an impact early in the tournament.

India

Last, but by no means the least, the defending champions. A good mix of youth and experience, anything less than a semi-final berth will be seen as a failure by the adoring fans. Speaking of fans, Kohli’s men will expect noisy homelike conditions with all India’s matches being sold out months in advance.

Players to watch

Virat Kohli

Along with Williamson, Smith, AB de Villiers and Joe Root, Kohli is one of the defining batsmen of his generation. He also seems to relish the added pressure captaincy brings. Averaging a shade below 50 in all 3 formats, he will want to get his hands on his first piece of ICC silverware as skipper.

Ravindra Jadeja

After a poor IPL (5 wickets and 158 runs), Sir Jadeja will be raring to contribute to this Champions Trophy campaign. He has his best results while bowling in tandem with Ashwin and Indian fans will be excited to see the spin duo return to action against Pakistan.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar

Until recently India’s success relied largely on batsmen and spinners. However, heading into this tournament there has been much excitement about India’s pace attack. Bhuvi, Umesh, Bumrah and Shami have all been in stellar form but Bhuvi for us is the real trump card. He has always been difficult to play with the new ball and has enjoyed English conditions last time around. Now, as his consecutive IPL purple caps demonstrate, opposing batsmen also fear him in the death overs.

Group B qualifier prediction: India and South Africa.

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