CRICKET: Paul Stirling on form as Ireland beat Hong Kong

Paul Stirling
Paul Stirling

Paul Stirling scored 156 for the second consecutive match to lead Ireland to a nail-biting three runs win (DLS) against Hong Kong in a rain-affected contest in Pretoria.

Stirling sat out the last two games with a slight hamstring niggle but showed no signs of rustiness as he launched a blistering attack on the beleaguered Hong Kong bowlers.

The ‘Belfast Blaster’ was at his destructive best as he smashed no fewer than 10 sixes and 8 fours in his 156 from just 128 balls.

He shared century partnerships with both Andy Balbirnie (37) and Ed Joyce (58*) as Ireland reached 284 for 3 before heavy rain curtailed their innings with five overs remaining.

Hong Kong were set a revised target of 175 in 20 overs and almost got there thanks to a whirlwind half-century from Babar Hayat.

Hayat gave the Irish a taste of their own medicine striking 5 fours and 4 sixes in his 60 from just 33 balls, while Waqas Barkat made a well-made 30.

Stirling (2-34) claimed the vital wicket of Hayat to ensure the Irish extended their unbeaten run under Head Coach Graham Ford but they were certainly made to sweat by a battling Hong Kong.

Barry McCarthy took two wickets on his first bowl of the tour but conceded 46 runs in his four-over spell, while the other wicket takers were Simi Singh (1-24), Peter Chase (1-30), and Kevin O’Brien (1-31).

“It was great to get another good day of batting under the belt,” said Stirling.

“I had a fantastic day myself and we were in a fantastic position when the rain came and cut us a little short. Hong Kong have just come out of their T20 Blitz and gave it a real go and pushed us to the end.”

Ireland now face Zimbabwe and Scotland next week in warm-up matches, before the World Cup Qualifier proper gets underway.