T20 World Cup: Ireland captain Andrew Balbirnie baking on Paul Stirling’s form to progress in T20 WC

Ireland skipper Andrew Balbirnie has said that opening batter Paul Stirling’s form will hold the key to the team’s chances in the upcoming T20 World Cup.

“We’ve got our two main guys at the top of the order in Kevin O’Brien and Paul Stirling, who has been at all the T20 World Cups that Ireland has been in since 2009. They’ve got loads of experience they can hand down to the younger generation – people like Gareth Delany, Josh Little, Ben White, Mark Adair, and Neil Rock,” ESPNcricinfo quoted Balbirnie as saying. “Six-hitting is a big thing for us and we know we have the batters [in the middle order] to go out and score at a pretty good strike rate, but the starts we have been getting with the two lads have been setting us up for some of our big wins in the format,” he added.

Ireland is placed in Group A of the Qualifying Stages for the upcoming ICC Men’s T20 World Cup alongside Sri Lanka, Netherlands and Namibia. The top two sides from the group will qualify for the Super 12 Stages.

Ireland will kickstart its campaign in the showpiece event against the Netherlands on October 18 at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium. The next two games against Sri Lanka and Namibia will be played on October 20 and October 22.

“Paul is hugely important for us. You just have to ask the other teams: when they’re playing against us, he is – no doubt – the wicket they want to get. He’s played all around the world in various different leagues and teams and he’s just got better and better. If he has a really good week next week, it will go a long way for us trying to qualify for the next phase,” said Balbirnie.

“The last couple of T20 World Cups have been pretty disappointing for us, most notably Dharamsala in 2016 and Bangladesh in 2014. It’s shaping up to be a really exciting group for the neutral – I’m not sure if any team is going to win all three games; I think that’s going to be very difficult,” he added.