Paul Stirling has arrived in Karachi to take part in the Pakistan Super League for the second successive year.
The Ireland vice-captain entered his latest bio-secure bubble with the Islamabad United team but will be available only for the first four of their 10 group matches in the tournament before he joins up with the Ireland squad in Oman for the build-up to the T20 World Cup qualifiers.
The four games — the first on Sunday and the last on Saturday week — is still two more than he played in last year’s T20 tournament, which was interrupted by a Covid outbreak, and Stirling could not return when it was completed in June.
Stirling still scored a 21-ball half-century in his last match and Islamabad did not think twice about asking him to return, albeit for only a third of their matches.
The Ireland squad leave Dublin for Oman on February 4 and the first of three warm-up matches is scheduled for February 11.
Meanwhile, despite a poor top order batting display, Ireland eased into the semi-finals of the Plate Competition at the Under-19 World Cup with a 94-run victory over Canada in Trinidad.
They will next play the winners of today’s game between Scotland and Zimbabwe, and a win will give them automatic qualification to the next global event in 2024.
Philippe le Roux was left stranded on 83 when Ireland were bowled out for 179 in the 44th over, although it was more than he can have expected when he was 34 not out in the 22nd over after the side had collapsed to 90 for seven.
But stands of 49 with Jamie Forbes for the eighth wicket and 37 for the ninth with Muzi Sherzad (13) gave the bowlers something to bowl at.
It proved more than enough as 15-year-old Reuben Wilson’s raw pace took two wickets in his first three overs and after that it was a procession.
The highest Canada partnership was just 25 for the eighth wicket, ended by Jamie Forbes’ first ball thanks to a fine running catch by Lisburn’s Matthew Humphreys. Ireland know, however, that their main batsmen will need longer stays in the middle if they are to win their final two games.
Captain Tim Tector has scored only 35 runs in the four matches with a top score of 15, and Le Roux, who hit 12 fours yesterday, Jamie Cox, on the back of his unbeaten 111 against Uganda, and Nathan McGuire are the only batsmen averaging over 20.
Scores: Ireland 179 (43.3 overs, P le Roux 83 not out, J Forbes 25, N McGuire 21; E Gibson 3-36) Canada 85 (29.2 overs; R Wilson 3-18, J Forbes 2-2, N McGuire 2-13). Ireland U19s won by 94 runs.