McCollum has timing to nail down place: Stirling
Paul Stirling is backing James McCollum to become an Ireland regular at the top of the order after the Waringstown opening batsman finally got into double figures against Zimbabwe on Monday.
McCollum had a top score of five going into his sixth one-day international, but Stirling insists he is only one big score away from nailing down an opening slot alongside the Middlesex professional.
Ireland - and McCollum - will be hoping that is today, when the teams meet for the second of three ODIs at Stormont (10.45am).
"We just want him to go out and show what he can do," said Stirling, who has seen more of him in the nets than in the middle so far.
"What I really like about him is every time he goes out to bat he has so much time, and that's one of the most important things for any batsman. So he just needs to go out and get one big score and then he will be away.
"We have only really started batting together, goodness knows how many times I have opened with (William) Porterfield, so it takes time to get used to what your partner does, how they call, what runs they want to take on."
It was Stirling who played a very different innings in Monday's first ODI at Bready, happy to rotate the strike - rather than striking boundaries from the start - and in the nine overs they were together, McCollum outscored him 21 to six.
"He played very well in the powerplay and got a couple of fours away, I managed to hit the fielders a few times," explained Stirling. "I just think their big threat is their opening bowlers and the way the first innings went when we bowled with the new ball it was tricky, so I thought maybe that may be our toughest period.
"Chasing a score of 250 wasn't as high as what we have seen recently so we had time to get through the first 10. And we came out of it okay. I would have taken 32-1 at the end of the powerplay."
In contrast to McCollum, Andrew Balbirnie is now Ireland's established No.3 and Stirling admits they form a good partnership.
"We take the pressure off each other," said Stirling. "He is a very good sweeper against spin - it feels from the non-striker's end that if he wants to hit a six from a sweep he can just do that - so I don't need to take risks against the spinners and it means I can look to be more aggressive against the seamers, while he makes sure he gets to the death (overs).
"We just about batted enough time on Monday (he was out at the end of the 31st over) considering the purple patch we have both been in. Ideally we would have liked to have gone deeper and taken the game away from Zimbabwe, but we'll take a 100 partnership any time."
With Stirling on a run of five successive ODI 50s, if he makes it six today it will, as always, be worth watching.
Meanwhile, with Cricket Ireland unable to rearrange internationals for the women's team after Zimbabwe Women pulled out of their tour last week, the first men's T20 at Stormont next Wednesday will now start at 12.30pm, 90 minutes later than originally scheduled. The two games to follow at Bready on July 12 and 14 are unchanged with 4pm starts.
Ireland U19s plundered the Worcestershire Academy attack for 374 runs in the second 50-over game in Dumbleton yesterday on their way to a 109-run victory.
Marcus Poskitt hit 114 from 112 balls with 10 fours and six sixes, Alex Stiles 80 from 66 (12 fours and two sixes) and Tim Tector, on his 16th birthday, 77 from 52 (nine and two).
Scores: Ireland U19s 374-8 (50 overs, M Poskitt 114, A Stiles 80, T Tector 77, G Hoey 28 not out; G Marshall 4-68) Worcestershire Academy 265-8 (J Banton 70, J Dickenson 53 not out, A Hinkley 37; G McFaul 3-41, M Thompson 2-25). Ireland U19s won by 109 runs.