Paul’s Stirling effort to break into Middlesex side

PAUL Stirling admits he will have to master the art of patience as he battles to break into Middlesex’s County Championship side.

Not just in terms of waiting for his opportunity – the young Irish batsman knows he may need to slow down at the crease as well to shake off his tag as a one-day specialist.

So far this season, the 20-year-old has featured regularly in the Panthers’ 40-over team, scoring runs rapidly but – apart from a recent knock of 45 against the Netherlands – without staying at the wicket for too long.

But Stirling is aiming to follow the path trodden by two other batsmen who traversed the Irish Sea and became key members of Middlesex’s four-day line-up – Ed Joyce, now at Sussex, and Eoin Morgan.

“They’re two people I really look up to, they’ve shown how to do it and hopefully I can follow in their footsteps and become a regular player for Middlesex,” said Stirling.

“A player like Morgan has come to Middlesex, worked hard and got the rewards he deserves. And there’s Gary Wilson at Surrey as well – Irish players are starting to make their mark in county cricket.

“I just want to pick up as many things as possible, get a few hints from the lads, and learn how to bat for a long period of time, something we don’t do a lot of in Ireland.

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“There isn’t a lot of multi-day cricket there, so it’s not something I’ve experienced much. I think that’s helped the national team in the one-day stuff.

“We play so much of it that people can just fit into the side straight away as if they’ve been in there for a while. It’s six of one, half a dozen of the other, I suppose.

“But one of the career goals I’ve set myself is to make my debut in the four-day competition for Middlesex. That might not happen tomorrow, it might not happen this year, but it’s something I really want to do.”

While Middlesex remain unbeaten in the County Championship and head Division Two despite being held to a draw by Gloucestershire at Bristol, their Clydesdale Bank 40 form has dipped alarmingly after heavy defeats to Kent and Sussex.

Sunday’s nine-wicket loss at Hove pushed the Panthers down to third place in Group A after they were bowled out for just 123, with Gareth Berg (52) the only batsman to pass 20.

Ironically, it was Joyce who steered Sussex to victory with almost 17 overs to spare, finishing with an unbeaten 47 and sharing an unbroken stand of 118 with Luke Wright, who smashed 71 not out.

That makes Thursday’s return match with the Netherlands, which takes place at Salland Cricket Club, Deventer, a crucial one following Middlesex’s nail-biting one-run success at Lord’s earlier this month.

And Stirling – who hit a century against the Dutch for Ireland in the recent World Cup – added: “I don’t think you can underestimate any side in this competition and the Netherlands are no different.

“They have a lot of class acts in their team, as I’d already seen playing against them for Ireland, and it was a great game of cricket the other week. There’s no way we can take them lightly.”

After returning from the Netherlands, Middlesex take on the Sri Lankan tourists in a three-day match at Uxbridge, starting on Saturday.