The importance of being Paul Stirling
The resolute 32-year-old batter must remember this is just the start and the entire year is right ahead of him.
Frankly speaking, with the way Sri Lanka are playing, rather dominating at the moment, the second and final Test may just end up in a draw.
There are heaps of runs being scored but not much success for bowlers with respect to wickets.
Call it a stalemate for some, particularly those who are rather drawn to thrilling dramatic finishes in this age of T20 overdrive.
Therefore, to many, it might not be a classic end to a Test match that began on a rather promising note for the visiting side. Though, purely from an Irish perspective, even this draw would tantamount to a moral victory of sorts for the Ireland cricket team.
For a side that quite simply found itself to be hardly a match to Bangladesh in the one-off Test in Bangladesh, runs were simply not coming. The match ended well inside the five days and it proved to be a situation where the Irish curse, so to speak, stung the very team of its origin.
Then, came the first Test against Sri Lanka, once again, a first for Ireland in the island pearl, part of the famous Indian sub-continent.
Once again, there were hardly any runs put on the board and the Irish batsmen were found wanting against the spinners.
But over and above the massive troubles that concerned the side that only just resumed Test match cricket, the biggest burning question of all was what might happen in the absence of Paul Stirling?
And whether his return in the second and final Test match could placate the angst suffered by the Irish cricket fans to an extent?
Well, now, it seems that huge question has
been answered and rather well by the man who was really being missed by Andy Balbirnie and company!
In cricketing lingo, it’s well understood that what separates the good batsmen from the great is that the latter make lots of runs and irrespective of who they face.
Though truth be told, where it concerns a certain Paul Stirling, it can be seen that the veteran of Irish cricket can make runs even against opponents against whom he’s had little or no previous experience in playing Test match cricket.
The fact that Ireland might hope to take the ongoing Test match against Dimuth Karunaratne’s men into the final day, something they are yet to do ever since setting foot in the sub continent, and might jsut bag a draw goes largely to Paul Stirling’s sensational return to the Test side.
And that’s true; the big hitting right hander’s return to the Test fold is indeed a sensational event particularly where the rather woeful fortunes of his run-less team are concerned.
Yet, the fact that despite scoring a three figure mark immediately upon resuming duties for Ireland in the pure whites, Paul Stirling went rather under reported and hence, under appreciated goes to say just how cruel a game cricket can be.
All the attention, with much due respect to the famous league and its fabulous action, only seems to rest with the Indian Premier League; the very little cricket action happening around or outside it, is visibly going unnoticed.
Is that even fair? How’s that supposed to make a cricketer or a team feel?
Not that the man himself would mind it for batting and the pure love for gathering runs is what happens to be Paul Stirling’s number one priority.
Though what’s rather impressive about Stirling’s first inning result of 103 is that he was able to strike a century despite having not played a Test match in three long years.
Such a gap especially at the highest annals of the game can make a batsman rather rusty. But not where Stirling, a cricketer of sterling conduct and passion is concerned.
Interestingly, the only Test where Paul Stirling batter prior to the ongoing Galle contest was at Lord’s and way back in 2019.
Playing his first ever contest at the spiritual home of cricket, much like his Irish team, Striking stroked a useful 36 in the first inning. The second, however, yielded a duck.
But that was then. Back then, he had the luxury of faltering with the bat as there were the likes of Gary Wilson and William Porterfield around.
But this is 2023; no longer do Ireland have the able services of a vastly talented Kevin O’Brien, who’s retired much like the formidable batting duo.
Stirling today finds himself as the big daddy of a team alongside Andy Balbirnie and the duo have the massive challenge of inspiring a young- as also capable- unit by producing runs.
Gladly so, for Ireland both of their senior most batters responded ably to the harsh Lankan challenge; captain Balbirnie scored a valuable 95.
Together, the duo faced over 340 deliveries during Ireland’s first innings.
But while, he’s gotten off well, the resolute 32-year-old batter must remember this is just the start and the entire year is right ahead of him.
On to more and bigger scores then, Mr. Stirling?