Paul Stirling produced a batting master class at the Toronto Cricket, Skating and Curling Club yesterday to compile Ireland's highest ever score in a one-day international. The prodigiously talented 20 year old - his birthday was last Friday - scored 177 as Ireland piled up their best ever total in ODI of 325 for eight against Canada, who had won the first one-day international between the teams on Monday by four runs (D/L).
If Ireland had a point to prove, they did it in style and ran out winners by 92 runs. Stirling had every record in the book in his sights, including the ultimate, Sachin Tendulkar's ODI best of 200, after bringing up his first ODI century in just 97 balls.
His next 77 came off just 36 balls as he added four sixes and nine fours to his 13 boundaries in reaching three figures. But, with still 32 balls left in the innings, he attempted to cut Harvir Baidwan and only got a top edge, which landed in the hands of Ruvindu Gunasekera at backward point. There was more than a hint of irony that Gunasekera took the catch because 163 Stirling runs earlier, he had put down the dolliest of catches off the opening batsmen at long leg.
His reprieve, however, allowed the smattering of spectators on a sunny, humid morning, to witness something really special. Unlike his innings the previous day, when he took 20 balls to get a boundary, he was teeing off after just five balls with a scorcher through mid-off and then in the air, one bounce to the same boundary.
His first six, into the sightscreens came in the eighth over and he followed that with two successive fours. His 50 came off just 38 balls (eight fours and six) and a more sedate second 50 (just four boundaries) took another 59 deliveries. But it was just the prelude for an onslaught which left the Canada bowlers begging to come off and when he reached 143 he passed Kevin O'Brien's previous best Ireland individual score, in an ODI.
His 14th four beat William Porterfield's record count but although he finished one short of O'Brien's sixes, his 26 boundaries was nine better than anyone else. The last time, Ireland scored 300 they lost! This time there was never any doubt although Albert van der Merwe"s first five-wicket haul for Ireland was completely overshadowed by Stirling"s memorable innings.