IRELAND’S new T20 side was unveiled before an unsuspecting Bready audience yesterday – and how they enjoyed it.

The spectators had to endure two rain interruptions with only five overs bowled in the first two hours of scheduled play. But it was certainly worth the wait.

Led by the irrepressible Paul Stirling, Ireland swept to victory by nine wickets with a ridiculous 13 balls to spare in a match reduced to 13 overs.

Set 134 for victory, Stirling hit an undefeated 83 from just 36 balls and an exciting, untapped talent of power-hitting was content to watch on, admiringly, from the dressing room.

This was Ireland’s first home T20 since August last year, when they were bowled out in 15 overs by Afghanistan for 79, also here at Bready. But the opposition was not the only significant difference. There were only four Ireland survivors from that line-up.

But Greg Thompson, Mark Adair, Shane Getkate and Gareth Delany – not even considered 11 months ago – must wait until tomorrow, at least, for a first innings in the shortest format.

When Stirling is in this form, however, no-one else has to worry about batting. He lost Kevin O’Brien in the sixth over, but by then the Middlesex professional had scored 35 of the 58 runs and it wasn’t so much a shot of the day as shot of the over which Stirling was single-handedly trying to win.

The third over set the standard. The first ball was an extra cover drive which scorched the damp surface but was at the boundary before a fielder could get anywhere near it. He followed it up three balls later with a glorious whipped six over mid-wicket, which was never more than six feet off the ground but carried 70 metres. In between he also dispatched a four through the covers, but that was just run of the mill in another memorable innings which ended with six fours and seven sixes.

Skipper Gary Wilson was one of those watching on.”Whenever Stirlo plays like that I don’t think there’s anyone in the world who can bowl to him. He is such an asset for us. It was brilliant to watch and real credit to him. He has taken the game to the next level, he is a proper world-class player and it’s so good to have him.”

Another player who had taken his game up a level is Andrew Balbirnie – Ireland’s No 3 in all formats and yesterday he showed why. The scorer of one of Ireland’s four double centuries in first-class cricket, he scored only 28 of the unbroken second wicket partnership of 76 but faced just 17 balls and scored from all but three of them – and one of those was when Stirling turned down a single off the last ball!

Wilson was content to use just his five front line-bowlers, including Delany who became the fifth player to make his debut this year. It was always going to be difficult coming on as a leg spinner in the seventh over of a 13-over game and he was duly dispatched for two sixes but only five came off the first five balls of his second over – the 10th of the innings – and he will deserve another go tomorrow.

Boyd Rankin missed out yesterday with a groin strain and will almost certainly sit out the final home international of the summer, with the Lord’s Test now just 10 days’ away.

Craig Young took his place and he struck with the first ball of his second over, a short ball looping gently to second slip but while that was probably the easiest of Kevin O’Brien’s 100+ catches for Ireland, there were plenty of stunning efforts which capped a splendid fielding display.

Lorcan Tucker, back in the outfield with Wilson resuming his role as first-choice wicket-keeper, held one above his head as he fell backwards to dismiss Brendan Taylor and, in the hectic finale, Tyrone Kane took a superb running catch at deep mid-wicket to end Craig Ervine’s innings and Tucker, just to prove the first one wasn’t a fluke, gave Young his second wicket with a diving catch at long leg in the final over.

Adair was the most expensive bowler but also the most successful, with two wickets in the 12th over giving him his third four-wicket haul of the season on, this, his T20 debut.

Shane Getkate’s final over was the only one not to include a boundary as Zimbabwe scored 92 from their last eight overs after the game had been reduced. It looked an imposing target but nothing is out of sight on a Stirling Day.