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Dublin: 2 °C Sunday 17 November, 2019
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Stirling and Balbirnie fire Ireland to perfect World T20 qualifying start

Graham Ford’s side are bidding to qualify for next year’s tournament in Australia.

Balbirnie scored an unbeaten half-century.
Balbirnie scored an unbeaten half-century.
Image: Sportsfile via Getty Images

IRELAND’S BID TO reverse their fortunes in Twenty20 cricket and qualify for next year’s World Cup in Australia continued on Friday as Graham Ford’s side got their qualifying campaign off to the perfect start.  

Having finished bottom of their group at the T20 World Cup three years ago and slumped to as low as 16th in the world rankings, Ireland have struggled in the shortest format in recent times.

But under the captaincy of Gary Wilson, Ireland — imbued with youthful endeavour and dash — have shown signs of a revival over the last 12 months, and opened their ICC World T20 Qualifier with an emphatic eight-wicket victory over Hong Kong today.

Half-centuries from Paul Stirling and Andrew Balbirnie saw Ireland chase down Hong Kong’s total of 153/5 with minimal fuss and 16 balls remaining to open their Group B campaign in style in Abu Dhabi.

After losing the toss and bowling first, Mark Adair led the charge for Ireland in sweltering heat as he took 2/22 while Boyd Rankin bowled superbly to concede just 18 runs from his four overs. 

In response, Ireland lost Kevin O’Brien in the first over of the chase as he was run out but Stirling continued his impressive form as he scored his 14th career T20I half-century from just 26 balls, while putting on an 86-run stand with Balbirnie.

Mark Adair bowling Mark Adair took two wickets for Ireland. Source: ICC

While Ireland lost Stirling on 62, Balbirnie and Harry Tector (21*) ensured Ford’s side strolled comfortably across the line ahead of Saturday’s clash against UAE [4.30pm Irish time, Sky Sports Cricket].

“We look to our next game against the UAE, if we play our best cricket then we’ll be okay,” Wilson said.

“If we aren’t at our best, then these other teams are good enough to beat us. It’s a case of a thinking a game at a time, if you look too far ahead in these tournaments you can come unstuck.”

T20 World Cup Qualifier, Group B:

  • Hong Kong 153/5 (Shah 79, Adair 2/22)
  • Ireland 155/2 (Stirling 62, Balbirnie 70*)

Ireland win by eight wickets 

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