ON the eve of Ireland’s T20 World Cup qualifying semi-final against Netherlands in Dubai, Paul Stirling has stressed the importance of the Euro T20 Slam going ahead next summer.
The inaugural Slam, due to held this year, was postponed at the last minute depriving the Irish, Dutch and Scotland players the opportunity of playing alongside the world’s best in a three-week tournament.
“It is really important for us,” said Stirling. “You have seen the improvement in other teams who have their own T20 tournament, like Canada (who defeated Ireland last week). We certainly didn’t under-estimate them after playing in their own so if we can get the Euro Slam to go ahead (just two months before the T20 World Cup) it will really help Scotland, Holland and ourselves so fingers crossed it goes ahead.”
All three European teams have qualified for Australia 2020 with just the order of placings to be decided, which determines which group they will be in for the early stages of the World Cup.
Although it has been Ireland’s objective to win the qualifying tournament, Stirling believes the pressure is off and it should allow the players to perform at their best over the final two days.
“The Dutch are one of the strongest teams, a really good T20 team, and having played against a lot of their players in England we know how strong they are.
“But, it will be a bit of relief playing each other with the pressure to get into the World Cup not there anymore, so it might lead to higher scores and be able to play in a relaxed atmosphere and show what you can do as a side.”
Stirling is on course to be the top run scorer in the tournament – after three half centuries in the six group games – as he continues his prolific form which has already yielded a record 1,462 runs this year.
“I came into the tournament in good form and managed to keep it going,” he added. “You are never quite sure when you come to the big games whether it will continue so I am delighted to get a few runs, contribute to a few wins and hopefully it continues with the final two games of the international calendar.”
It won’t be the last international action for Ireland’s star batsman. After a 10-day break, he will be returning to the UAE for the T10 League which he describes as “probably my favourite tournament outside of playing for Ireland. You play for an hour and half and have fun after that.”
Stirling also spoke for the first time since missing out on a place at next year’s new English franchise competition, The Hundred.
“As an overseas player (having declared for Ireland) I was always going to be favourite to lose out, there were room for only three per team and the players chosen are at different level,” he said.
“If I went in as a local player, potentially it might have been easier but that’s the way it’s gone and hopefully there will be a few more tournaments around the world in years to come.”
Meanwhile, Scotland beat Oman in yesterday’s only game by five wickets and, if normal ICC groupings apply, they will go into Bangladesh’s group at The T20 World Cup and will meet the winners of the qualifying tournament in their first match in Australia.