Ireland batter expected to be available for initial five-game spell during group stage
Paul Stirling will make his Middlesex comeback in this year’s Vitality T20 Blast, two years after leaving the club due to a change in ECB regulations.
Stirling, a British passport-holder who was born in Belfast, was forced to make a choice between playing as a local player in county cricket and continuing his international career but giving up his Middlesex contract as a result of regulation changes following Ireland’s ascent to ICC full-member status. He chose the latter, and will play as an overseas player in this year’s Blast.
Stirling played for Northamptonshire in last year’s T20 Blast, finishing as their top-scorer as they reached the quarter-finals, and attracted interest from several counties including Lancashire and Hampshire before his Middlesex deal was confirmed. He has initially agreed to play five games at the start of the Blast’s group stage, before Ireland’s limited-overs series at home to South Africa.
He has also set his sights on securing a deal in the Hundred, with several overseas players expected to either withdraw fully or for part of the season.
“I am absolutely thrilled to be returning to play for Middlesex in the Blast,” he said. “I am looking to put on my best performances for the world to see, and hopefully a successful stint will create further opportunities, potentially in the Hundred, and further afield, as I would like to test myself in all competitions globally.”
Middlesex required a replacement overseas player after Mitchell Marsh withdrew from his contract, having been named in Australia’s enlarged squad to tour the Caribbean, and Angus Fraser, their director of cricket, said in an in-house interview that they may face difficulties in getting Mujeeb Ur Rahman, their other overseas signing for the Blast, over to the UK.
“It’s been far from straightforward, getting overseas players and things like that,” he said. “Speaking to other directors of cricket, there are a lot of new routes that are being explored to get your players to play county cricket this summer, and we have that challenge with Mujeeb.”
Middlesex finished fourth in the six-team South Group in last year’s Blast, having reached the quarter-finals for only the second time since 2008 the previous summer. Stirling will add significant power and experience to their top order, and also offers a useful options as a second or third spinner with his offbreaks.
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98