Stirling swan song will be T20 final
Ian Callender (Belfast Telegraph)
PAUL Stirling’s final game for North Down will be the T20 Cup final against CIYMS on Sunday-week.
The man of the match from Ireland’s victory over England last Tuesday returned to club cricket yesterday and with bat and ball helped the Comber side defeat Waringstown by 49 runs in the semi-final.
There was some doubt about his participation in the decider, which will be back at The Lawn, because Stirling has to report to Northamptonshire for the T20 Blast on the Monday but there is a late flight from Belfast which will allow him to take part.
His performance with the bat, following on from his sensational 142 in the one-day international in Southampton, was cut short on 29 from 17 balls by the first of several excellent catches in the match but his four overs with the ball were a huge bonus on his North Down debut.
Stirling struck with his third ball to remove Adam Dennison, caught at backward square leg by the other returning international, Craig Young, and with the fourth ball of his second over, Greg Thompson holed out to deep mid-wicket.
It got even better for North Down, who were defending 128, when Stirling dismissed James Hall after a run-a-ball 20 and, by the time he had completed his four overs, his three wickets had cost just seven runs.
On the turning pitch, Carl Robinson and Ryan Haire each chipped in with two wickets and, when Young returned for his final two overs, it took him only 10 balls to take the last two wickets on a day Waringstown will prefer to forget.
It went wrong even before the start when opening bowler Phil Eaglestone was ruled out by a knee injury and the Villagers missed out on three overs from Kyle McCallan after the former Ireland captain was hit above the right eye when fielding at slip, from a full-blooded cut by North Down captain Alistair Shields.
There was a 10-minute delay while he bandaged on the field but he stayed at the ground before going to hospital in case he was needed to bat. With 50 still required from 14 balls when the ninth wicket fell, he didn’t.
The biggest crowd of the season turned up at The Lawn, mainly to see Stirling bat, and for 17 minutes they were not disappointed as the Ireland opener hammered four fours and a six before he was caught at backward point by Thompson off the bowling of James Mitchell, who proved to be the international’s nemesis. Stirling hit his second ball for two, failed to score off five and was out to the seventh.
It was Shields, who replaced Stirling, who continued his prolific form, scoring 59 off 48 balls with three fours and three sixes before he was run out trying to keep the strike for the last ball.
The most successful Waringstown bowler was Morgan Topping, the eighth called on by Lee Nelson but who dismissed Peter Eakin, Ryan Haire and Aditja Adey in the space of seven balls.
CIYMS suffered their first defeat of the season on Saturday, going down to Instonians at Shaw’s Bridge in the League Cup — and they hadn’t fully recovered from the setback yesterday despite beating Lisburn by six wickets.
They restricted Adam Berry’s side to 74-8, the captain top scoring for the fourth successive game, but this time with only 12. But the holders slumped to 42-4 in reply, with David Simpson having John Matchett lbw and then bowling returning international Mark Adair and Jason van der Merwe with successive balls.
Captain Nigel Jones survived the hat-trick but was bowled by Callum Atkinson for seven and it needed the patience of Chris Dougherty — 28 not out from 52 balls — and Jacob Mulder —14 from 18 — to see CIYMS over the line. Adair bowled two overs, taking one for seven, which included two wides.
Young was the first of the internationals back into action on Saturday in North Down’s 79 runs victory over Woodvale, who were bowled out for 71, but he was one of seven bowlers who helped themselves to wickets.
Of the other Ireland squad members, James McCollum was 45 not out for Waringstown in their 53 runs win over Lisburn and Stuart Thompson took 3-28 on his Civil Service North debut as they defeated Carrickfergus by nine wickets after an astonishing innings of 92 by Ross Adair. He was out at the start of the 13th over, having faced 38 balls with six fours and eight sixes.