Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Paul Stirling display a boost for Ireland

Paul Stirling has made a good start in the UAE

Ireland start their final countdown to the World Twenty20 tomorrow with the first of two official warm-up games, against the Netherlands in Abu Dhabi.

The squad, minus Ed Joyce who is in England awaiting the birth of his second child, arrived in the UAE capital on Saturday night after making it two wins out of two in their practice games in Dubai.

All 14 members of the squad have taken part in at least one of the games – Trent Johnston, Tim Murtagh and George Dockrell sat out Saturday's game which Ireland won by 14 runs, defending 120 for seven.

Paul Stirling top scored with 56 from 43 balls, with four fours and three sixes, and Max Sorensen was again the most impressive bowler, conceding just nine runs in three overs and taking three wickets.

Kevin O'Brien also took three as the Wings XI, captained by former Ireland pace bowler Peter Connell who is based in the UAE this winter, were bowled out in the last over.

The squad will not have to leave their Abu Dhabi base for the duration of the tournament, which starts on Friday, save for a day-trip to Dubai on Wednesday for their second warm-up game against Papua New Guinea and with group games against Namibia, Canada, USA, Italy, Uganda, Hong Kong and the hosts, they will be confident of being the first qualifier for the finals in Bangladesh in March, as group winners.

Although, with six teams joining the 10 Full Members in next year's finals, it should be a question of when, not if, Ireland qualify.