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Euro T20 Slam must go ahead: Stirling

 

Hot streak: Paul Stirling is delighted with his recent form
Hot streak: Paul Stirling is delighted with his recent form

By Ian Callender

On the eve of Ireland's T20 World Cup qualifying semi-final against Netherlands in Dubai today (10.10am GMT), Paul Stirling has stressed the importance of the Euro T20 Slam going ahead next summer.

The inaugural Slam, due to be held this year, was postponed at the last minute, depriving the Irish, Dutch and Scottish players the opportunity of playing alongside the world's best in a three-week tournament.

"It is really important for us," said Stirling.

"You have seen the improvement in other teams who have their own T20 tournament, like Canada (who defeated Ireland last week).

"We certainly didn't underestimate them after playing in their own, so if we can get the Euro Slam to go ahead (just two months before the T20 World Cup) it will really help Scotland, Holland and ourselves, so fingers crossed it goes ahead."

All three European teams have qualified for Australia 2020 with just the order of placings to be finalised, which decides which group they will be in for the early stages of the World Cup.

Although it has been Ireland's objective to win the qualifying tournament, Stirling believes the pressure is off and it should allow the players to perform at their best over the final two days.

"The Dutch are one of the strongest teams, a really good T20 team, and having played against a lot of their players in England we know how strong they are," he said.

"But it will be a bit of a relief playing each other with the pressure to get into the World Cup not there anymore, so it might lead to higher scores and, playing in a relaxed atmosphere, show what you can do as a side."

Stirling is on course to be the top run scorer in the tournament - after three half centuries in the six group games - as he continues his prolific form which has already yielded a record 1,462 runs this year.

"I came into the tournament in good form and managed to keep it going," he added.

"You are never quite sure when you come to the big games whether it will continue, so I am delighted to get a few runs, contribute to a few wins and hopefully it continues with the final two games of the international calendar."

It won't be the last international action for Ireland's star batsman. After a 10-day break, he will be returning to the UAE for the T10 League, which he describes as "probably my favourite tournament outside of playing for Ireland".

"You play for an hour-and-a-half and have fun after that," he said.

Stirling also spoke for the first time since missing out on a place at next year's new English franchise competition, The Hundred.

"As an overseas player (having declared for Ireland), I was always going to be favourite to lose out, there were room for only three per team and the players chosen are at a different level," he said.

Meanwhile, Scotland beat Oman in yesterday's only game by five wickets to finish the Qualifiers in fifth place.

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