Paul Stirling played his finest innings for Ireland at the Ageas Bowl last night, striking a magnificent 142 from 128 balls to power the Boys in Green towards a stunning seven-wicket victory over England and their first points in the World Cup Super League.
The big hitting Belfast opener blasted the world champions with nine fours and six maximums, adding an Ireland record second-wicket partnership of 214 with skipper Andy Balbirnie who had his own century on the board before Stirling was run out.
Balbirnie was caught at deep extra three overs later for 113, bettering his opposite number and former colleague Eoin Morgan’s earlier effort by seven runs on a day of centuries for the Irish in Southampton.
With nerves jangling, youth and experience got Ireland over the line with a ball to spare: Harry Tector coming of age with a cool 29 not out from 26 balls and veteran Kevin O’Brien recalling memories of the last time Ireland beat England in Bangalore with a mighty six and the winning run.
The England innings was dominated by Morgan who got off the mark with a streaky four wide of slips and survived a half chance to mid-wicket on 67 but otherwise was at his fearsome best, pulling viciously to the leg-side and smashing one enormous maximum over wide long off.
Mark Adair, back in the side after a late change of heart by the selectors, had struck an early blow when Johnny Bairstow played on and fellow opening bowler Craig Young claimed two more wickets before the England captain began his onslaught of 15 fours and four sixes.
At 190-3, just past halfway, England were threatening a total close to 400 but then Morgan skied to Harry Tector at backward point to depart for 106 from 84 balls and momentum stalled during a fine spell of leg-spin from Gareth Delany.
England quickly lost another three wickets in a mid-innings collapse and were not threatening 300 before a half-century by David Willey, was well supported by Tom Curran in an eighth-wicket stand of 73 in 10 overs, to take the home side to 328 all out.