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'A giant of a man': Ireland skipper Andrew Balbirnie salutes Roy Torrens as Paul Stirling's century dedicated to former team manager

Stirling hits ton in tribute to Torrens, but not enough to beat Afghanistan

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Ton up: Paul Stirling remembers former Ireland team manager Roy Torrens after reaching his century against Afghanistan yesterday

Ton up: Paul Stirling remembers former Ireland team manager Roy Torrens after reaching his century against Afghanistan yesterday

Ton up: Paul Stirling remembers former Ireland team manager Roy Torrens after reaching his century against Afghanistan yesterday

Paul Stirling did it for Roy Torrens but the Ireland bowlers had no answer to a chanceless third wicket stand of 184 as Afghanistan claimed victory in the second World Cup Super League match in Abu Dhabi with almost five overs to spare.

Even if the popular and successful late former team manager had been alongside them, it wouldn't have made a difference as Rahmat Shah and Hashmatullah Shahidi eased their side towards a second victory in the three-match series, in imperious style.

It was always going to be tough for the Ireland players, in action less than 24 hours after the death of 'Big Roy', but the man who was ever-present for Stirling's first 153 matches in an Ireland shirt would have been proud of Paul's response, his third one-day international century in the last five innings.

"Paul was very close to Roy and you could see that innings today was for him," said skipper Andrew Balbirnie at the post-match press conference before adding: "I'd like to take this opportunity on behalf of all the players to wish his wife Joan and the family all the best. Irish cricket has certainly lost a giant of a man."

Balbirnie, however, had to admit that with Stirling scoring more than half of his side's runs off the bat, they should have finished with more than 259.

"Apart from Paul and Curtis (Campher), there are not a lot of positives to take, he added. "We played well the other day getting 270 and we set ourselves up to mount a good total today, but we weren't able to do that and against this Afghan side that has a lot of power we were up against it."

The decisive moment, as it turned out, came even before the teams lined up for the minute's silence. Balbirnie won the toss and elected to bat and then heard that opposite number Ashgar Afghan would have bowled anyway.

Afghanistan certainly read the pitch better because although it was the same surface on which the teams had played the first game, it did not turn nearly as much as on Thursday and became easier and easier to bat on.

Balbirnie called on seven bowlers to break Afghanistan's record partnership after Barry McCarthy and Campher had removed both openers in successive overs, but the two Afghans found it so easy that at one stage they were satisfied to hit 23 consecutive singles.

Simi Singh eventually made the breakthrough, thanks to a catch at long-off, but by then the game was all but over and Afghan finished it in a hurry with 17 off the 45th over.

The first 45 overs, however, were all about Stirling, who on reaching his 11th ODI century, equalling William Porterfield's record tally, poignantly raised his bat to the heavens.

Three runs later, the opening batsmen overtook his former skipper as Ireland's all-time leading run scorer and only when tiredness set in, after facing 132 balls, did he drive straight to cover after hitting 12 fours and four sixes, the only maximums of the innings.

The third game, with 10 World Cup qualifying points available, is tomorrow and as Balbirnie reminded everyone: "We were beaten comprehensively in two games in Southampton (by England) but won the third."

Belfast Telegraph


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