Ian Callender (Belfast Telegraph)
Forget T20 cricket, T10 has been the new big-hitting craze for the last few days and Ireland international Paul Stirling has been one of the stars of the inaugural tournament in Sharjah.
Stirling had won the man of the series award in the three one-day internationals against Afghanistan at the start of the month, after scoring 82 from 96 balls and 101 off 97 in the two Ireland victories, in the same stadium which hosted the T10 League.
So you could say he was in form when, four days later, he played his first match for Kerala Kings, under the captaincy of England’s one-day skipper and former Ireland international Eoin Morgan.
But those scoring rates were positively pedestrian scoring rates when compared to Ireland’s only invitee’s exploits in the next five games as he thrashed 181 runs from just 92 balls – and that included a golden duck!
Stirling's top score was 66 not out (10 fours and three sixes, off successive balls from South African quick Marchant de Lange, from 27 balls) in the opening match against Bengal Tigers but the highlight was undoubtedly the final, played late on Sunday – indeed It finished at 12.30 yesterday morning local time – when he hit an unbeaten 52 from 23 balls with three fours and five sixes.
Set 121 to win by the Punjabi Legends, led by Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq, Stirling and Morgan put on 113 of them in just 6.4 overs with the Dubliner caught on the boundary, inches from another six, for 63 from 23 balls (five fours, six sixes).
They were actually able to slow down towards the end having hammered 93 off the first five overs as England bowlers Ravi Bopara and Chris Jordan felt the full force of Stirling and Morgan’s bats.
Stirling finished as the second highest run-scorer in the tournament, just 10 behind Pakistan’s Shoaib Malik and with the world watching on television, he seems sure to be in pole position to snap up a lucrative Indian Premier League contract next year.