IRELAND vice-captain Paul Stirling is targeting a 2-1 victory against Afghanistan in the World Cup Super League series against Afghanistan which begins in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.
Stirling, goes into the game in form, after hitting back to back one-day international centuries, albeit five months apart, but he knows a series win is vital if Ireland are to have a chance of making the top eight in the 13-team League who qualify automatically for the 2023 World Cup finals.
“We’ve always had good games against them and 50-over cricket certainly favours us more than T20 against Afghanistan,” said Stirling. “If we win 2-1 or, even better, 3-0, we can take momentum into the series against the biggest sides. If we come away from here with a loss it’ll be tricky.”
The biggest obstacle to a series win will, as always, be Rashid Khan, the Afghanistan super star, but someone who Stirling has had regular success against down the years.
“The main thing is to try and execute whatever it is that you have practised,” added Stirling. “The thing with world class bowlers is that they come up trumps often and time and time again they keep producing the goods. I generally try to read the ball in the air. His action is so quick. It looks really easy when people slow it down but it’s not.”
So what advice would Stirling give to his younger team-mates, such as Harry Tector and Gareth Delany, who will be facing him for the first time?
“I think it’s important they play their natural game. He is a brilliant bowler but as batters we are playing against the ball and not Rashid. ODI cricket gives everyone a chance to have a look at him and not be under as much pressure to score off him as in T20s. If he goes for 30 or 40, not taking many wickets, then we can maybe try and target someone else.”
After a week without action, especially after a defeat in their only ODI against UAE, Stirling admits preparation has not been ideal but it’s something they have to deal with.
“We’ve had a number of good practice sessions in the middle over here but nothing quite compares to getting game time,” he said. “I’ve no doubt we would have improved in all three facets of the game with the rest of the UAE series going ahead.
“However, playing at international level, overcoming hurdles and solving challenges are what is required, so that’s what we’ll be looking to achieve in whatever cricket we have left out here.”