Cricket: Stirling century inspires Irish
PAUL STIRLING had to rein in his naturally aggressive game to stroke Ireland to victory over USA in their opening Plate match at the U-19 World Cup.
After a relative failure against South Africa and a first-ball duck against Australia, it was a more circumspect Stirling who guided his side to the brink of a five-wicket victory over the USA with a sumptuous century.
The 19-year-old from Belfast barely took a risk until Ireland were in complete control, then unleashed an avalanche of boundaries, including a six and three fours from the first over of the batting powerplay.
"It was a bit different for me because I usually like to give the ball a good whack but in the early part of the chase we had to keep to the plan, be disciplined and not lose our way," Stirling said.
The fifth-wicket pair added a match-winning 104; after Stirling was bowled for a meaty 114 from 102 balls, McDonnell struck the winning single from the fifth ball of the 44th over.
Ireland had not won a match in the early stages of this biennial tournament since 2004 and were looking down the barrel again as the USA motored to 168-3 before Ryan Corns was involved in a mix-up and run out in the 38th over.
Wicket-to-wicket slow bowling then made up for more wayward fare by the Ireland seamers and with Lee Nelson claiming three victims in seven balls in the final overs, the USA subsided to 217 all out.
The win earned Ireland third place in Group B and the bonus of a direct flight to Napier tomorrow (the USA have to travel there via Auckland) with Zimbabwe next up on Saturday. Victory over the very weak African side will deliver Ireland a Plate semi-final against the USA or Canada in Palmerston North.