Stirling key man as Irish bid for hat-trick
Ian Callender (Sunday Life)
THE county professionals flew into Belfast yesterday morning to complete Ireland's 15-man squad for the World Twenty20 qualifiers, being held on home soil for the next three weeks.
And one of the late arrivals was Paul Stirling, the Middlesex opener and slow bowler who is set to be one of Ireland's key all-rounders.
His reputation as a big-hitting opening batsmen is well known but it is other suit which is likely to be just as important to Ireland's progress, and if they are to win the competition for a third successive time.
Of the current players with at least 10 wickets in T20 internationals, Stirling has the best economy rate and, indeed, of the others, only his spin twin this month, George Dockrell, has conceded less than seven runs an over.
It's always nice coming back and getting my four overs in in T20. It's gone well in the last couple of (World T20) qualifiers. I always bowl a lot of overs in these tournaments and if I haven't taken a lot of wickets I have kept the economy rate down and helping get wickets at the other end, says Stirling, whose best figures for
Ireland in the shortest format are four for 10 against Hong Kong, one of their six Group A opponents; he has also taken three for 20 against Namibia, Ireland's first opposition at Stormont next Friday.
The last two qualifying tournaments have taken place in the heat of the UAE but with 11 games at Stormont over the next 10 days, including the official warm-up action which starts tomorrow, the pitches are expected to turn by the time Ireland face the USA, Nepal and Papua New Guinea in the space of four days next week.
Negotiating the group, where four of the seven teams make it through to the knock-out stages in Dublin, should not be too taxing for the hosts but the confidence of the young pace attack must have taken a hit in the two games against Scotland at Bready last month when Ireland took only eight wickets.
But Stirling, who missed the rain-affected series because of his county commitments, is not taking too much notice of those two defeats.
I wouldn't read too much into those performances. In the past we have been slow starters and the fact that the county players have been playing T20 and are coming over in good form - the top seven are all in form - and it's massively important the bowlers will have those games under their belts, he added.
They will get two more in the warm-ups (against UAE and Oman on Tuesday afternoon) and come the first game of the tournament proper we should be in very good stead. Our target is to go through the group unbeaten and go on from there and win the tournament.