Stirling, Balbirnie fifties help Ireland blow Hong Kong away

Ireland 155 for 2 (Balbirnie 70*, Stirling 62) beat Hong Kong 153 for 5 (Kinchit 79, Adair 2-22) by eight wickets

Half-centuries from opener Paul Stirling and No. 3 Andy Balbirnie headlined Ireand’s comfortable eight-wicket win over Hong Kong in their opening match of the T20 World Cup qualifier at Abu Dhabi. Under bright and warm conditions, Hong Kong opted to bat, scoring 153 for 5 in their first innings, but a lack of bowling penetration from their bowlers saw Ireland cruise to victory with 16 balls to spare.

Hong Kong’s Kinchit Shah was the only bright spot in their batting performance, smacking 79 in 54 balls. His innings had six fours and two sixes but the second-highest Hong Kong scorer made only 20. Barring Kinchit’s 60-run third-wicket stand with Waqas Barkat, where the latter contributed only nine runs, Hong Kong failed to stitch together partnerships that were big enough to push them to an imposing total. Mark Adair was the pick of the Ireland bowlers, going at only 5.50 per over in his four-over spell that included two wickets.

Ireland’s chase of 154 began in entertaining fashion after Stirling drilled ten runs in the first five balls of the innings. Then, off the first over’s final ball, non-striker Kevin O’Brien was run-out for a duck without facing a delivery. But from 10 for 1, Stirling and Balbirnie proceeded to collect 86 runs in the next 60 balls to take the game away from Hong Kong. Stirling’s 36-ball 62 included eight fours and two sixes, and when he fell in the 11th over, Balbirnie combined with No. 4 Harry Tector (21*) to seal the win in the 17th over, finishing unbeaten on 70 in 53 deliveries. Stirling was declared Man of the Match for his back-breaking innings that came at a strike-rate of 172.22.

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