Belfast Telegraph

Cricket: Simmons tips Stirling to excel for Ireland

By Ian Callender

National coach Phil Simmons has identified Paul Stirling as one of Ireland’s big players at the World Twenty20 Qualifiers, which started this morning in the UAE.

Two years ago, when Ireland finished second to Afghanistan here as both teams qualified for the finals in the West Indies, Stirling played only the first of Ireland’s six matches, dropped after playing a reckless shot against the Afghans, despite hurrying to 21 off 23 balls.

This time, after scoring a century in his last match for Ireland — against a young Eastern Province side in Port Elizabeth last week — Stirling will be one of the first names on the team-sheet and the coach has noticed a major change in his approach.

“His mental attitude is a lot different than two years ago,” said Simmons. “He’s a big contributor now, he’s thinking a lot about cricket and he has come a long way in those two years. With bat and ball and even in the field he is going to be a big plus for us.

And the player himself, while looking forward to the tournament, now acknowledges that innings of 20 should be just the start and not an end product.

“Playing with Middlesex last season, I was batting in the top three but getting out very early, maybe 20 off 12 or 13 balls, but I didn’t go on and get a big score, because they are just as important in this format as any other,” said Stirling.

“But the main things in batting still apply.

“If you get in, you need to stay in and bat through the innings, no matter what form of the game it is. So, hopefully, someone can take that role on and win the game for us.”

And, if Simmons’ predictions are right, Ireland had to hit the ground running this morning because their first opponents, Namibia, will be one of the dark horses in this tournament.

“Scotland and Holland are two of the bigger threats with lots of experience,” said the West Indian.

“They have both been playing good cricket. But the dangers for me and the big danger for everyone, I think, are Namibia. It is a very dangerous team.”

Ireland’s second game is against Kenya tomorrow morning and, after a 3-0 series win in the humidity of Mombasa last month, William Porterfield’s side will be confident of another victory in the more temperate conditions of Dubai.

Belfast Telegraph

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