Cricket: Stirling wants double ton but record 177 will do for starters
Paul Stirling’s only concern after completing his record-breaking knock for Ireland on Tuesday was the damage to his right hand, the result of a direct hit by Canada opening bowler Khurram Chohan.
After smashing 177 from just 134 balls, a blow on the hand would seem a small price to pay as Stirling took his place at the top of the highest scores for Ireland in one-day cricket — and in the process he has already scored more runs in a calendar year than anyone else.
But behind an inscrutable face, while nursing an ice-pack on his hand, Stirling was the proudest but still most modest man in Ireland after he left the Toronto Cricket, Curling and Skating Club to a standing ovation, having converted a curling-loving audience into a cricket-mad crowd.
Stirling does not do superlatives. He was “happy” to be the first Ireland player in a one-day international to reach 150 and “not really” disappointed about missing out on becoming only the second batsman, ever, to score a double century in an ODI.
Batting comes so naturally to Stirling that when he hit three balls in succession for six, four and six off Canada slow left armer Parth Desai, to move from 158 to 174, he wondered what all the fuss was about.
It also explains why, three balls later, he tried to pull the much quicker Harvir Baidwan and the top edge lobbed gently to backward point.
“I’m very proud to have broken the Ireland record and they tell me it’s the 13th highest score in a one-day international so there are some great names up there.
“I wasn’t thinking about 200 or any record but I was getting a little tired and my hand hurt, so I just continued to play my shots as long as I could,” said Stirling.
Just turned 20, and home still in Newtownabbey with dad Brian, a former international rugby referee, mum Beatrice and brother Richard, who opens the batting for Carrickfergus, Paul just lives for playing cricket, hence his anxiety to ensure the damage to his hand was only superficial.
Ireland are back in action in 11 days time, an Intercontinental Cup match in Zimbabwe and the opening batsman can‘t bear to miss a single match.
Why would he. He is in the form of his young life and before this year only William Porterfield had scored 1,000 runs in a season. Admittedly, he has already played five more innings than the Ireland captain had in 2007, when Porterfield made 1,038 runs, but Stirling is now 49 runs ahead and has probably five more innings to come.
Those five will be in Zimbabwe this month and it has been confirmed that Ireland will have their county players available for not only the three ranking one-day internationals but also the Intercontinental Cup match, starting on Monday week, which precedes them.
So Porterfield will return to captain the team, alongside Niall O’Brien who has proved his fitness with Northamptonshire II and Gary Wilson. Boyd Rankin and Alex Cusack will miss the two-week trip because of injury.