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Returning Joyce can get Ireland back on the right track, says Stirling

 

By Ian Callender

Ed Joyce is ready to return to the Ireland line-up for today's one-day international against Bangladesh, the fourth match of the Tri-series in Malahide, also involving New Zealand who Ireland play again on Sunday (both games 10.45am).

Despite Niall O'Brien scoring a century for Ireland in their defeat to the Kiwis last Sunday, at No.3, he is expected to drop down one place to allow Joyce to return to the top of the order with William Porterfield coming in at the fall of the first wicket.

Joyce has been batting in the nets for the last three days without any effects after the back injury which kept him out of last weekend's games and, even at 38 years of age, when Joyce is fit and available he plays.

It means he will be reunited with his opening partner in each of his last eight ODIs, Paul Stirling, as Ireland's best batsman and fastest scorer hope to get the team off to a good start.

"Joyce is a classy player and when he is up front or at No.3, if he stays in he is destructive enough towards the back end so hopefully we can put on a big partnership," said Stirling, 12 years his junior.

"Even in his 'older years' he is still a proven player and still has the ability to win matches against New Zealand and Bangladesh and hopefully he can do that."

Stirling believes that Ireland are just a win away from getting their confidence back, which has been noticeably missing in the last year.

"We have played some of the best teams in the world recently - England, Australia, South Africa - and you can see the difference between the top three and the rest," he said.

"It has been a real struggle against the top teams, especially when you go to play Australia and South Africa away. They showed their class.

"But we feel we are in these games against Bangladesh and New Zealand and even though we played only 30 overs against Bangladesh we had them 70 for four and on top, and against New Zealand we could have won that game.

"Niall O'Brien batted through and we were always in the game when he was at the crease, but when he was out, we didn't have anyone to finish it off.

"That's just a lack of confidence. If we had been winning matches that would have been a normal run chase but instead, if not panic, it showed up a lack of a winning attitude. We haven't been in a winning position after 40 overs of the second innings recently and with that missing one or two per cent we could have won that game by five or six wickets."

But for now, Stirling accepts that Ireland rely on the top order to get the bulk of the runs.

"When we lose four or five wickets we are more hoping than expecting to win the game but hopefully it doesn't put too much pressure on the top order to score big runs because you don't want to play with that lack of freedom and be unable to score. But if any team puts on a big total then generally the top four or five get the majority of the runs," he said.

"So we still have a lot to work on but hopefully we have someone who can win the game at the top or, if we don't, someone can come in and take an opportunity and show they are here to stay."

Belfast Telegraph

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