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Stirling effort gets Irish World bid off to a flyer

By Ian Callender

It agurs well for Ireland at the World Twenty20 Qualifying tournament that they can win their opening match against one of the leading teams in the group by 32 runs and still find plenty of room for improvement.

On a day of shocks in the UAE – four of the top six in the competition lost – Ireland eased to victory against Namibia in Abu Dhabi despite losing their way in the middle of the innings and Trent Johnston and Max Sorensen bowling only three overs between them.

The key to victory was an opening stand of 84 in 53 balls by William Porterfield and man of the match Paul Stirling who, after being dropped on 18, cashed in to bring up his seventh half century in the shortest format.

After that a total of 180 was within Ireland's reach but it was another seven overs before they found the boundary again and it needed Gary Wilson to hit two in succession in the last over just to get the Irish past the par total of 160.

Johnston gifted Namibia the perfect start with six wides in his first two overs, the second of which cost 17, but reliable Alex Cusack came on to back up an accurate four overs from Tim Murtagh who, having been neglected by Middlesex for so many years, is now turning into a top performer in Twenty20 games.

George Dockrell and Kevin O'Brien then tightened the screw to put Namibia so far behind the run rate that victory was assured long before the finish – only the margin of victory was in doubt.

The biggest disappointment on the day was the fielding. Not once did Ireland hit the stumps from four direct throws which would have resulted in run-outs – John Mooney missed from five yards when Namibia top scorer Raymond van Schoor was on 16 – and Max Sorensen missed a sitter in the outfield.

The ground fielding had more lapses than acceptable and coach Phil Simmons said: "I can't say in public what I want to say about the fielding – let's just say it was under-par and we've work to do."

On a more positive note he added: "We set the tone in the first six overs, and backed it up lower down, and we're getting better and I hope we will improve as the tournament goes on."

The best news of the day was the innings of Stirling who was out cheaply in both the warm-up games and, as Simmons revealed, "has been struggling in the nets. But he comes to the party on game day and is great in this format".

The man himself said: "It's nice to get back into the swing of things and start with a 50. We're just happy to be one (win) from one."

Ireland play the second of their three games on successive days against Canada this afternoon.

The Canadians were on the receiving end of one of the shock results yesterday, losing to the United States by five wickets. Ireland play hosts UAE tomorrow.

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