Ian Callender (Belfasr Telegraph)
Ireland vice-captain Paul Stirling insists that if Ireland get a good start in both innings they can claim their first World Cup Super League victory, against England today.
It’s the third and final match of the behind-closed-doors series in the Ageas Bowl and it is Ireland’s top order which has let them down in the first two games which the under-strength world champions have won with 22 and 10 overs to spare.
“We’re pretty disappointed how we fared in first 10 overs of both games,” said Stirling yesterday. “If you are going to start like that, it’s going to be tricky afterwards.
“Yet, despite those starts we have done quite well with Curtis (Campher) playing so well, helping us get a score on the board and if we then get a cluster of wickets we have a chance.
“After their start with the bat we could have given up and conceded they would chase the runs down but we haven’t done that in either game and it’s been a brilliant effort by the bowlers even after a tough start to get wickets, so that’s really pleasing. As always, it’s just a case of trying to put our whole game together.”
Ireland’s most experienced players, Stirling, captain Andrew Balbirnie and Kevin O’Brien have contributed only 57 runs in the series so far and Stirling has now failed to score more than 12 in three successive ODIs for the first time since 2017, against Bangladesh, New Zealand and Afghanistan – he has never gone four in a row in his 120-match career.
With so many youngsters in the team – Stirling, a month short of his 30th birthday, is now the third oldest – but he refutes the idea that this is an Ireland team in transition.
“We seem to have been in transition for a few years now. It will always take time to bed in youngsters but it about them getting a score under their belts and seeing what ODI cricket is all about, international cricket for that matter. They are good enough it just a case of the senior players standing up as well and taking their opportunity and having fun.”
Speaking exclusively to the Belfast Telegraph, Stirling added: “When senior players don’t score it gives opportunities to others, for example you wouldn’t have seen Curtis scoring a 60 and 70 if things had gone like they had in the past and hopefully if we put it all together we can get that all- important win."
Stirling, like everyone else watching, can’t praise 21-year-old new boy Campher highly enough.
“He was really impressive in practice and has a brilliant attitude so not surprised how he has gone about his business. It just a case of maintaining the momentum and he seems in pretty good form with both bat and ball. He’s a really solid player, has played the situation well on both occasions and has something about him with the ball (he has taken a wicket with his fourth ball in each of his first two games).
“Sometimes it’s a case of sink or swim. We’ve wanted these fixtures for a while, we are playing the top team in the world and the way they play their cricket is different to anything we have seen in the last four years. It’s amazing to watch but, as you’ve seen, they can lose a few wickets while doing it. So if we create that pressure and take wickets in clusters you never know.”
One batsmen Ireland have yet to dismiss in all three games, including the warm-up game against England Lions last week, is Sam Billings, recalled to the ODI side for the first time in two years and someone Stirling knows all about from Middlesex games against Kent.
“He’s a quality player, but he knows he has to come in and take his chance because of the strength in depth England have, and he has taken his opportunity with both hands,” said Stirling, who describes the opening partnership of Johnny Bairstow and Jason Roy as one of the best in the world.
“It looked like Bairstow was really switched on on Saturday, he’s a class player, his record shows it and we have to get him and Roy out early. Bairstow has shown us what he can do and Roy if he gets to 10-20 he can take any attack down.”
Stirling can do the same of course and Ireland, who hoped to name an unchanged squad until a couple of late injury concerns last night,, will be praying this is the day when Ireland’s leading run-scorer in ODIs comes to the party.