• A Stirling Start

    Posted on May 27th, 2022

    Ireland’s swashbuckling opener, Paul Stirling, stirred the pulses on his debut for Birmingham Bears at Edgbaston with a thrilling hundred off 46 balls, which set the pace for this year’s Walter Lawrence Trophy. Stirling smote 8 fours and 8 sixes in bringing up his century before perishing on 119 in the Vitality Blast match against Northamptonshire on May 26 .

    A worldwide, destructive force in limited-over-cricket, Stirling’s 119 was his third and highest T-20 score, featuring 9 fours and 10 sixes – including 34 runs off one over, paving the way for a Bears’ victory, by 125-runs, in a game decided by the Duckworth/Lewis method.

    Born in Belfast, Stirling made his debut for Ireland in 2018, aged 17, and has played in 3 Tests, 136 One-Day Internationals and 104 T-20 Internationals to date. Made vice-captain of his country in 2020, he has scored 12 ODI hundreds, including Ireland’s highest ODI innings of 177 against Canada at Toronto in 2010. Stirling became the first Ireland player to score 5,000 ODI runs and in the annual ICC Awards in January he was included in ICC Men’s ODI Team of the Year for 2021.

    After playing in their youth sides and the county’s 2nd XI, Stirling signed a three-year contract with Middlesex in 2009. However his future with the county ended in 2019 after Ireland’s ascent to Test match status led to him being classed as an overseas player and since then his supreme attacking talents in the one-day game have seen him concentrate on the limited-over franchise. As well as Ireland, Middlesex and Birmingham Bears, he has represented Northamptonshire, Kerala Kings, Khulna Titans, Bengal Tigers, Chitwan Tigers, Islamabad United, Dambulla Viiking, Kandahar Knights, Sylhet Royals, Paarl Rocks, Boost Defenders, Royals, Northerns and Southern Brave.

    Prior to the start of the domestic limited-over games this year, it is worth recording that England’s new captain, Ben Stokes, made a significant start to his first-class season with a storming century off 64 balls for Durham against Worcestershire on May 6. His bludgeoning innings finished on 161 made off just 88 balls and included a County Championship record tally of sixes, 17, as well as 8 fours. Like Paul Stirling’s knock, Stokes pulverised one over for 34 runs – both men hitting the first 5 balls for six and just failing to clear the ropes with the sixth ball.

    Birmingham Bears v Northamptonshire scorecard
    Paul Stirling’s career statistics

    The Walter Lawrence Trophy, now in its 88th year, is awarded for the fastest hundred of the season and is open to all domestic county competitions as well as One-Day Internationals, T20 Internationals, The Hundred and Test matches in England.

    Nat Sciver Delivers

    England all-rounder Natalie Sciver, has set the bar high in the quest for this year’s Walter Lawrence Women’s Award, thanks to an impressive innings of 169 not out for England against South Africa in the one-off, drawn, Test match at Taunton on June 29. Nat’s unbeaten innings was scored off 263 balls, which included 21 fours, and was her maiden Test century. The 29-year-old vice-captain shared a sixth-wicket stand of 207 with debutant Alice Davidson-Richards, who also scored a century, to help England post a total of 417-8 declared, after they had slumped to 121-5 following South Africa’s first innings total of 284. Interestingly, Nat and Alice both attended Epsom College, where they played together between 2007 and 2011.

    Among her many accolades, Nat, who was born in Tokyo and grew up in Poland as a child, became the first cricketer for England to take a hat-trick in a Women’s T20 International match. On March 7 last year, she captained the England team for the first time in the third T20 International against New Zealand after Heather Knight was ruled out of the fixture due to injury. Most notably, following England women’s 2017 World Cup victory, she was named as one of Wisden’s Five Cricketers of The Year in the 2018 edition.

    Another string to her bow was creating the ‘Natmeg’, a shot christened after she hit a ball through her legs during an England game. On a personal note, after a Covid-enforced delay, Nat finally tied the knot with England’s Katherine Brunt in May this year.

    Nat is bidding to secure the Walter Lawrence Women’s Award for a third time after winning in 2014 and 2018, so an ‘every four years’ pattern augurs well. Nat is one of the world’s most sought-after players and has represented a large number of franchises including Surrey Stars, Melbourne Stars, Perth Scorchers, Supernovas, Northern Diamonds and Trent Rockets, who she will captain in The Hundred this season.

    The Walter Lawrence Women’s Award is for the player who makes the highest individual score in a season from ECB domestic cup games and all England Women’s matches played on home soil.