Sunday, 30 October 2011

Paul Stirling...

Paul Stirling is the most promising talent in the Irish cricket batting lineup and he's only just turned 21, he made his first-class debut in 2008 while playing for Ireland in the Intercontinental Cup. He signed a contract with Middlesex in 2009 and not long later was awarded a contract with Cricket Ireland, and he was only one of six players with a full-time contract with Cricket Ireland. Also making his List A debut for Middlesex in 2011.

Stirling scored his maiden first-class century in July 2009 in the opening game of the 2009/10 Intercontinental Cup. And having signed his full time contract with Ireland it had given him the time to focus solely on Ireland. He was nominated for Emerging Player of the Year in 2010 and also the Associate Player of the Year in the ICC Awards, and what makes it even more impressive, he was the only associate player nominated in the Emerging Player category.

For Paul to be nominated with such leading names of World cricket it shows how far he has come with Cricket Ireland and all of this at the age of only 19 is very impressive. One of his biggest knocks for his country came during a One Day International against Canada on the 7th of September 2010 where he made his maiden List-A century scoring 177 runs.

In doing so Stirling made the highest individual score for Ireland in an ODI and also becoming the 14th ''Highest individual score by a batsman in one day cricket (ODI)''

He was selected in Ireland's 15-man squad for the 2011 World Cup where Stirling got himself another International century off only 70 deliveries which made it the fourth-fastest in World Cup history...

After the World Cup Stirling got into the Middlesex's one-day side during the 2011 season, making his List a debut on the 24th of April against Worcestershire. He also had a good run with the bat in the 2011 Clydesdale Bank 40 competition scoring 535 runs from 12 matches, and towards the end fo the competition he struck his first century for Middlesex, scoring 109 from 81 balls.

With the contract he has with Cricket Ireland he has given him more say when it comes to playing for Ireland and he got his chance to shine when Pakistan came to Ireland for a two game ODI series in May 2011, Ireland did lose the series 2-0 but in the second game Stirling scored his first century against a Test nation at the young age of 20, and he was once against shortlisted for Associate and Affiliate Player of the Year at the 2011 ICC Awards in August 2011.

And despite his young age of 21 he remains of the brightest prospects in not only Irish cricket but World cricket and has been labeled the new Eoin Morgan but all Irish fans will hope he can remain in Irish cricket for a very long time to come and help open the batting when Ireland gets it's chance to play the ultimate test in test cricket...

Thursday, 27 October 2011

The day when the World was introduced to Irish cricket, part 2...

So Ireland were very close to chasing the biggest total of their careers.

If Ireland could score 133 then they would virtually knock out Pakistan from the 2007 Cricket World cup and create one of the biggest cricketing upsets of all time but Ireland had never been in this situation before, Ireland would come up against some of the best bowlers in the game who have been here before and are very experienced.

So out comes the two Irish openers in Jeremy Bray the man who scored 115* against Zimbabwe in the famous tie of the World Cup, and the other opener was the future Irish Captain in William Porterfield, their job was to keep things steady and not to lose early wickets, the rate wasn't a question but losing wickets would put too much pressure on the middle order.

Pakistan needed early wickets and after only 4 overs into the innings they made the breakthrough,
Mohammad Sami with an inswinger to Bray and Bray is given out LBW and it's the early wicket Pakistan needed but they still knew they needed to bowl Ireland out, if Ireland batted the overs they would win, and in comes the future England player in Eoin Morgan to replace Ed Joyce who is now playing for England could he make the difference?.

After facing only five balls Mohammad Sami had Morgan out LBW and Morgans struggle with the pace of the bowlers is over and Ireland are in a bit of trouble and are now 15/2, and in comes the eager Niall O'Brien and they had got a nice partnership going with some lovely boundaries being hit especially from the bat of Niall O'Brien but mostly it was the rotating of strike that got them both going.

Mohammad Hafeez was into his second over of his second spell when disaster struck Ireland and the 15 overs partnership was broken when Hafeez sent one through quicker to Porterfield and Porterfield could only go back in his crease and get a big inside edge into his leg stump and with that Ireland were now 62/3 but still thanks to that last partnership Ireland were holding steady but would need another partnership going to see them home.

In comes the Andre Botha the man with very impressive bowling figures in the first innings now could he do his magic with the bat also?, and during their partnership he didn't get much of the strike and it was to tell when he faced his six delivery from Mohammad Sami but this was not a good decision at all by the umpire and it could end up bringing Pakistan back into this game, the ball was heading down leg and Botha threw his bat down the left side of his front leg and the ball hit the right and flew to short leg and after much appealing and shouting the finger goes up and this is a horrible decision but there is nothing Botha can do, he has to go and Ireland are now at 70/4.

And in comes Kevin O'Brien and the two brothers are in together and Ireland need 63 from 26 overs at the required run rate of 2.42 so the run rate was not an issue, they just needed to keep wickets in hand and not to put too much pressure on the tail, and the partnership had started to form and now they have to leave the field for bad light but 27.3 overs have been bowled and the minimum overs of 20 have been bowled and so the game will be decided today and Ireland are ahead on duckworth lewis but the officials decide that 35 minutes later it's now okay for play to continue and out come the batsmen and the Pakistan fielders.

All had looked well for Ireland till they took the pace of the ball with Shoaib Malik and the 10 over partnership between the two brothers was broken and it was the huge wicket of Niall O'Brien he had just used his feet to come down to Shoaib Malik and hit a massive six over long-on and he tried to do it again but this time he was nowhere near the pitch of the ball and Kamran Akmal makes the stumping when Niall is left stranded down the wicket and that is a huge wicket for Pakistan but he has caused a lot of damage to Pakistan while he was there with his score of 72 and Ireland only need 20 runs now from 13 overs.

The new batsman is Andrew white and his first ball is whacked for four but the celebration was not to last long and Iftikhar Anjum and he was deceived by the delivery and could only spoon it to Hafeez at short leg and this is not what Ireland needed, they needed cool heads to see this home, so in comes Kyle McCallan and Iftikhar Anjum has got McCallan out for a duck and the delivery forces McCallan to go back in his crease and he can only get a thick edge to Younis Khan and Pakistan would feel right back in this game and Ireland are now 113/7 with 15 runs needed from 12 overs.

In comes the Irish Captain Trent Johnston and the pressure is on and they handle it brilliantly with a seven over partnership of great strokeplay and under immense pressure they go into the 42nd over needing 2 runs from 6 overs and from the second ball Kevin O'Brien takes a quick single and the scores are tied and Ireland are nearly there and it's left to the Captain Trent Johnston to see it home, and Azhar Mahmood comes into Johnston and with a huge swing clubs the ball out of the ground over long-on and Ireland have done it, Ireland have chased the total and created cricketing history by beating Pakistan and now shown up on the World stage, and people will know all about Irish cricket...

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

The day when the World was introduced to Irish cricket...

We bring this back to the 17th of March 2007.

A national holiday back in Ireland and after Ireland's last ball draw with Zimbabwe in their first game, people might have started to question these cricketing men in green but this was different, now Ireland faced one of the tournaments favourite team to win not only the group but the entire World Cup itself, the team was Pakistan, and many Irish players commented how they were jokingly taunted that they shouldn't be here and that they should be home celebrating their national holiday but as many Irish sporting fans know, we enjoy the underdog tag, and this day was arguably the biggest underdog tag that an Irish sports team could have.

So it started with Irish Captain Trent Johnston winning the toss and sending Pakistan in to bat first on a green wicket, and all the Irish were shocked at the green of the pitch, could this be a sign of things to come?,.

So the first two batsmen were Imran Nazir and Mohammad Hafeez and the first over was a mixed affair with Langford-Smith giving a no ball away and then the unthinkable happened
a fast away swinging delivery that takes the edge of Hafeez bat and Niall O'Brien takes the easy catch and at the end of the first over Pakistan are 7/1 and Ireland are rolling along, and that wicket had made the game a tight affair untill Smith came onto bowl again and bowled to Nazir and almost gave Smith a caught and bowled chance but it wasn't to be and it was dropped and Pakistan fans let out a sigh of relief but their relief wasn't to be for long.

Rankin to bowl his second over and he bowled to Younis Khan a back of length delivery which caught Younis by surprise who could only send a thick edge to first slip and Botha wasn't going to drop this and Pakistan were leaking water at 15/2 but in comes the solid and reliable Mohammad Yousuf and he quickly has Rankin gone for four through extra cover, and it remained a tight affair with Pakistan hoping to rebuild their innings, well until the 13th over when the Irish Captain came onto bowl and he got the big wicket of Yousuf, Yousuf could only cut it to the future Irish captain in William Porterfield at backward point and from leaking water, Pakistan were not letting the water into the ship a lot quicker and at the end of the 13th over they were at 58/3 and a lot of work to do, could there be a shock in the World Cup of monumental proportions?.

If Yousuf was a big wicket, what was to happen next would utterly shock any Pakistan fan, Ireland stuck with Botha for his second over and it would be a wise decision Botha's first ball to Inzamam-ul-Haq is a massive one and he goes to fend the delivery from Botha but only sending to Morgan at slip and Pakistan were in real trouble now at 58/4, they needed a partnership and they needed to get the run rate going, what was going to happen?, it was the job of Nazir and Shoaib Malik to do whatever job was needed.

Despite their best efforts the partnership didn't last five overs and Botha again with a good line and length delivery has Nazir just prodding the bat out to meet the ball and the edge is taken by Morgan at slip again and the defence of Nazir is finally breached and now Pakistan were letting more water in than they could throw back out and were at 66/5 and Botha's figure so far had been immense with 4 overs going for just 1 single run and 3 maidens and taking 2 wickets.

So at the crease was Malik and Kamran Akmal and much rested on their shoulders, the question is who would win the battle?, and as the game had gone so far this partnership had lasted only 15 balls and Kevin O'Brien got in on the act with his brother Niall O'Brien and they had Malik caught behind and to say the Irish team were delighted would have been an understatement and now Pakistan were at 72/6 and with Azhar Mahmood at the crease with young Akmal, the question people were able to ask now was, can Pakistan bat out the overs?, had somebody mentioned at the start of play today that very question, they might have received a very loud laugh but now it was a genuine question.

It remained a tight pressure filled game and Pakistan looked to be rebuilding a type of innings with a partnership which lasted nearly 10 overs before the very tall Boyd Rankin was brought back and his second over of his second spell he caused chaos to the Pakistan innings when he had Azhar Mahmood and this was a shot Pakistan did not need and Johnston makes a solid catch at midwicket and Pakistan are in deep trouble now at 103/7 and now Kamran Akmal is on strike and he goes for a pull shot of Rankin and Johnston takes the catch of the tournament, possibly one of the best catch in cricketing history, he has to run back from mid-on and takes the high catch diving over his shoulder and this has turned into a nightmare for Pakistan and now they sit unable to shift any of the water in their boat and are at 105/8 with still 19 overs to bat out.

And one of the best partnerships of their innings is made between Mohammad Sami and Iftikhar Anjum and it has lasted near to 13 overs before McCallan finally got a wicket for all his tight work and he had Sami sweeping to deep backward square leg and Jeremy Bray takes an easy catch, well it was made to look easy but it wasn't really, now with just under 7 overs left in their innings their last batsman came to the crease in Umar Gul and Pakistan were now at 130/9.

The last pair didn't last long and McCallan got his bowling rewarded again and he got the last wicket of Umar Gul and he went for a slash over deep midwicket and Mooney took the high catch and Pakistan didn't bat out 26 balls and they had only put on 132 on the board, had this total been set to chase by any of the top teams, people wouldn't question it at all but this was Ireland?, the team people had told to go home and celebrate their national holiday, a team that was made of a farmer, electrician, fabric salesman, truck driver and many more amateur players, this was no professional team but they fielded as good as any and bowled as good as any, the big question that remained for Ireland, could they create cricketing history and win this game and cause a huge upset in the World Cup, or could Pakistan defend this total and avoid a huge embarrassment,

We will find out later...

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Irish Eyes are smiling...

Ireland against England, it was on the second of March of the year 2011...

Ireland had come into the World Cup on the back of 2007 and the performances they had shown throughout that particular World Cup and a lot was expected of the best associate side. Ireland's first game was against one of the host nations, a game against Bangladesh, a team that Ireland felt on par with and had a very good record against but this was different, this was in their own backyard and after Bangladesh had been held to 205 it was highly expected by Ireland that they would chase this target down and not only that, Ireland had targeted this game as a game they could win,

Things don't always go your way and Ireland succumbed to the pressure in Dhaka and were bowled out for 178 and Bangladesh won by 27 runs, now come the 2nd of March and Ireland's next game was against a much fancied England side, and having won the toss England decided to bat and even with a decent bowling effort by the Irish, England still put 327/8 on the board and even the biggest Irish fan would have thought this was beyond them, and who could argue with them.

So began the Irish run chase, and it began very badly for the Irish with the Irish Captain being knocked over on the very first ball by James Anderson, and that was much the story of the chase, a lot of starts and lot of luck with Joyce being dropped twice and even with the pressure on, it didn't stop young Paul Stirling from playing his own game and after only facing four balls had Stirling, he had Broad sent for a six and Ireland had started to rebuild and with Stirling still in, the required run rate stayed in control,

And then disaster struck Bresnan gets Stirling caught at deep square and with only two balls left of the first powerplay Ireland were two down and Ireland couldn't afford much more mistakes, Ireland managed to stay to the 20th over before another wicket was lost but not getting many runs at all and the required run rate was up to near eight an over when Niall O'Brien was bowled by Graeme Swann and Ireland were really in trouble now and by now most fans had started to lose hope,

And only two overs later the big fish of Ed Joyce was stumped from Swann and with this wicket Ireland were four down and in comes Kevin O'Brien and the situation was desperate and anymore wickets falling would have crippled the team and his partner at the other end was struggling badly and the inevitable happened and Gary Wilson was LBW to Swann and by now Kevin had decided to himself that he could try knock the ball around and get the score to a respectable one or between him and Alex Cusack they could give it a go and go down trying,

What was coming next noone could have seen, and the tormentor of the Irish side bowled to Kevin and many would have thought with Kevin giving everything a whack, that his innings wouldn't last long, Swann's first ball to Kevin goes for a big six over midwicket, and the next is a lot more quiet and is a dot ball but he wasn't finished with Swann and the last ball of the over once again went for a six over midwicket and this was only the start of things to come,

And this type of brute attack went on for quite some time and Ireland then did something that not many teams did in cricket and took the batting powerplay in the 32nd over and not only did they take it but they scored 62 runs for the loss of no wickets and in this huge powerplay Kevin O'Brien hit James Anderson for the biggest six of the tournament at the time (102 metres!)
and with that England fans were starting to get worried and Irish fans from a stage of hoping for a respectable score turned into a feeling that their team could actually win the game, who would have thought that when Portefield was bowled over on the very first ball,

And by this stage Ireland now needed 106 from 15 overs and the required run rate was down to just over 7 runs to the over, and big Kevin wasn't stopping there, he continued on and on untill disaster nearly struck the big Irish man when he hit Collingwood down the ground but not far enough and Strauss dropped the game when he dropped Kevin on 93, and even the neutral commentators had got into the game and seemed to be delighted with the drop of Kevin O'Brien, and with Kevin still at the crease another thing came to light, the fastest World Cup century of all time, Matthew Hayden had got a century in the previous World Cup from 67 balls and at this stage Kevin was only on 45 balls for his 93,

And people forget to mention the other hand in this innings was a small quiet man called Alex Cusack who held himself a decent score of 40 from 53 balls and he held one end shut and wasn't letting anyone else in and it was the perfect partnership, and then came the last ball of the 41st over and Kevin O'Brien taps a full toss into the legside and runs for two and not just that, he runs for the fastest World Cup century of all time from just 50 balls and the 6th fastest ODI century of all time but he couldn't celebrate long, he knew the biggest job was still to be finished, and that was winning the game for Ireland and creating history, and with that Ireland needed 56 runs from 54 balls,

All was going splendidly till disaster struck and Kevin blocked the delivery to point and Cusack set of for a run that wasn't there and Kevin didn't move, and Cusack sacrificed his wicket for his partner Kevin as he knew if Ireland were to win Kevin needed to be there, and what a partnership it was, 162 for the 6th wicket and at a run rate of 9.43,

The new man was John Mooney, when the last World Cup was around he was an electrician and with the new found fame of Irish Cricket he had now become a professional cricketer and was a full time player and a lot of pressure was on his shoulders, and it had shown with the reuired run rate climbing enough to put pressure but Mooney stood up and often with overs going for little runs he had managed to hit a boundary of the last ball for 3 of the overs he was involved in and kept the rate manageable and kept the English bowlers frustrated,

And then the biggest disaster struck in the 48th over, he hit a yorker to midwicket, he ran the single easily but wanted a second which didn't exist and despite his best effort of a dive he was out with some solid work from Prior behind the stumps and he can only stay face down in the crease, he knows he has thrown his wicket away but not before showing the world what he can do and possibly winning Ireland this cricket game against their rivals England,

In comes the hugely experienced Trent Johnston and the young man at 36 has been sitting down nervous hoping it wasn't him to finish the game for Ireland but he was indeed needed and Broad was to bowl to him and with 11 needed from 11 balls Broad needed to be tight and the fielding even tighter but that wasn't to be Broad bowls a gentle full toss and Johnston drove it calmly to the extra cover rope and his nervs would have been settled by this and at the end of the 49th over Ireland needed just 3 from 6 balls and James Anderson was to bowl the last over, what pressure must Anderson and Mooney/Johnston be under,

Well Mooney dealt with it the best and a full delivery from Anderson, was timed wide of midwicket for four and Ireland have done the unthinkable and beaten England and not only that they have created history by chasing the biggest total in World Cup history and this is not a test playing team, the team who chased this total was the minnow the associate country, everyone likes underdogs and there was no better examples of it shown than today when Ireland were sent in to chase whatever total England could muster up and they did it in style,

I don't think people will forget the name Kevin O'Brien anytime soon...