Simmons praise for world-class Stirling
PAUL STIRLING was compared to the very biggest hitters in world cricket after firing Ireland to victory over Afghanistan in the World Twenty20 qualifiers final in Dubai.
The 21-year-old Middlesex batsman smashed the second fastest half-century ever in international T20s -- breaking his own Irish record by reaching the mark in only 17 balls.
His Man of the Match winning 79 from 38 balls included three sixes and nine fours and took Ireland to victory by five wickets as they overhauled Afghanistan's imposing 152-7 with seven balls to spare.
"It was a knock to be put up there with the Chris Gayles and Virender Sehwags of this world," said Ireland coach Phil Simmons. "Paul is maturing so nicely, we look forward to what he is going to produce in the finals in Sri Lanka. Overall, it was a very satisfying tournament.
"After losing to Namibia, we had to do it the hard way by winning 10 matches in a row, but our aim was always to win the competition -- not just qualify -- and we did that."
Qualification had been secured earlier on Saturday via a revenge win against Namibia with Ireland cantering to victory by nine wickets in only 10.1 overs after the south-west Africans had been held to 94-6.
Stirling again led the charge with 59 not out from 32 balls, but it was The Hills paceman Max Sorensen who took the Man of the Match award for a superb spell of 2-8 from his four overs.
"I've been hitting the ball okay," Stirling said, modestly. "The first six overs are crucial in any T20 game and myself and William Porterfield have done well there. I played my natural game throughout and when I got out the other lads finished the job."
The one tiny disappointment for supporters is that by winning the tournament, Ireland have avoided a rematch with England who they famously beat at last year's World Cup.
As losing finalists in Dubai, Afghanistan will be in the same group as England and India. Ireland take on Australia on September 19 and the West Indies five days later