We won't curtail Stirling's attacking instincts - Porterfield
Paul Stirling is Ireland's most naturally gifted batsman, but also the most frustrating. He can hit any ball to the boundary and dominate any attack - coach John Bracewell reckons he has the "strike potential, skill-set and pedigree" to play in the Indian Premier League, where the world's best players can earn up to €2m for a few weeks' work.
But all too often, just when his sumptuous classical strokeplay, laced with devastating power, has left an opposition attack bewildered, he will get out limply.
To have a realistic chance of beating the world's best sides - starting today in the Tri-Nations opener against Bangladesh at Malahide - Ireland need Stirling's pyrotechnics at the top of the order. But they also need more than whirlwind cameos. Last week against England, he scored 22 and 48, both at better than a run a ball - and in keeping with a respectable career ODI average of 34.98. Those scores do not win matches.
At the age of 26, and in his 10th season of senior international cricket, the Belfast-born Middlesex man is no longer a promising youngster; for Ireland to progress, he has to deliver big innings more often. Ireland captain William Porterfield, though, has no intention of asking Stirling to rein in his attacking instincts.
"I don't want to take anything away from Stirlo because he can set up that platform in pretty destructive style," he said, when asked if he might 'have a word in Stirling's ear'. "At Lord's, he did what he's been wanting to do. He's very positive in those first 10 overs (when fielding restrictions limit the number of opposition fielders on the boundary).
"When he's in that mentality of just watching the ball and hitting it, he's played his best innings. Against Afghanistan (in March), when he got 350-odd in five innings, did that by being positive in the first 10 overs. He has shown a lot of maturity from overs 10 to 30 overs - once he gets out of those first 10, he becomes a bit more calculating."
Porterfield, who hit 82 from 83 balls at Lord's, is confident Ireland can upset a Bangladesh side ranked seventh in ODIs and are close to full strength - unlike fourth-ranked New Zealand, who have four star players on IPL duty.
"It's a great month for Irish cricket," he said, looking forward to Ireland's four games in the mini-tournament. "We had a much improved performance at Lord's, compared to Bristol, and we've got to go again. It's a great opportunity for us to test Bangladesh - and beat them. As long as we have an improved performance, we give ourselves a chance. What's our realistic ambition for this series? Winning games of cricket. I wouldn't want to put a number out of four, but it starts with this one; win that and prepare for New Zealand. We've beaten Bangladesh in our own back yard before, and we'll look to do it again."
Ireland are expected to give a debut today to Simi Singh, the YMCA all-rounder who has gained citizenship after growing up in Mohali, and while not exactly a youngster at 30, he should bolster the batting order as well as providing a spin option.