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Cricket: Ireland quartet in line for top award

By Ian Callender

Ireland's dominance at Associate level has been confirmed by the short-list for the LG ICC Associate and Affiliate Cricketer of the Year with four of the five nominees.

George Dockrell, Ed Joyce, Kevin O’Brien and Paul Stirling will all attend the awards ceremony in Colombo on Saturday September 15 with Afghanistan opening bowler Dawlat Zadran the only challenger for the top individual prize in Associate cricket.

The year started on August 4, 2011 and ended on August 6 with the World Twenty20 qualifying tournament the most high-profile tournament in that period when Ireland won nine matches in row to lift the trophy.

Stirling averaged 116 in the last four games in Dubai, including three of his five 50s in the year and he also hit a century against Canada in the Intercontinental Cup game at Rathmines.

Just for good measure he also took 24 wickets at less than 20 runs each, including five against Bangladesh in the T20 internationals at Stormont last month.

Ed Joyce averaged 35 with the bat — two runs higher than Stirling over the year — also with five half centuries, including an undefeated 78 against Scotland in Dubai and 67 not out against Afghanistan in the one-day international at Castle Avenue in July.

George Dockrell would appear to be Stirling’s main rival for his remarkable 52 wickets in the year at just 15.83, with 22 of those coming in Ireland’s three Intercontinental Cup victories which gave them a 100 per cent start to the competition, before rain ruined their home game against Afghanistan. He was also Ireland’s leading wicket-taker in the UAE with 15.

Kevin O’Brien was unable to follow-up his unforgettable match-winning World Cup innings against England last year, scoring only one 50, but he took 17 wickets at 18 runs each.

Meanwhile, Niall O’Brien made his highest first class score yesterday for Northamptonshire. His 182, against Glamorgan at Cardiff, beat his 176 for Ireland against UAE in Namibia in 2005.

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