On his last official day in school Paul Stirling learned that he would be playing against World Twenty20 champions India in next month’s finals in England.
The 18-year-old Belfast High schoolboy was yesterday named in the 15-man squad that will face Bangladesh at Trent Bridge on Monday June 8 and the all-star cast of India two days later. Between times he has the little matter of three A-level exams and five Friends Provident trophy games. He intends to play in them all.
An A-level on June 2 will force him to miss the two World Twenty20 warm-up games at Lord’s and The Oval but if he maintains his prodigious batting form this summer, the Carrickfergus batsman should still walk straight into the World Cup side.
Innings of 51 against Worcestershire followed by an 80 on Monday at Grace Road, Leicester booked his place in the squad and earned this tribute from national coach Phil Simmons.
“It has not just been the fact that he has scored runs but the manner in which he has played. He has been confident, powerful and dominant. It is hard to believe that innings of such maturity come from one so young. He looks the part and has a great attitude to the game which will stand him in good stead in years to come.”
Stirling and opening batsman Jeremy Bray are the new faces in the team which qualified from the Belfast tournament last August and, if anything strengthens the squad that reached the 2011 World Cup finals in such convincing style in South Africa last month.
Andre Botha has been included but still faces rigorous testing on his ankle which has kept him out of Ireland’s last 10 matches.
“We’ll make a final decision in two to three weeks’ time. He definitely won’t bowl in the tournament but Id be very confident he will play a major role with the bat,” Simmons added. But Trent Johnston and Alex Cusack, currently sitting out the FPT campaign, will be back to boost the bowling attack along with Warwickshire’s Boyd Rankin.
The return of Ireland’s four county players means there is no room for James Hall, Andrew Poynter, Reinhardt Strydom and Phil Eaglestone.
Squad: W Porterfield, J Bray, A Botha, P Connell, A Cusack, T Johnston , J Mooney, K McCallan, K O’Brien, N O’Brien, P Stirling, B Rankin, R West A White, G Wilson.