Paul Stirling handed Irish cricket a very valuable gift on the occasion of his 29th birthday on Tuesday with confirmation that he has signed a new contract with Cricket Ireland and announced his departure from Middlesex after a decade with the Lord’s-based side.
Stirling was forced to make a decision between county and country due to new regulations that mean he would have to play as an overseas player in county cricket, despite being born in Belfast. Stirling’s Middlesex contract runs out at the end of this season.
Stirling is the second highest run scorer in Irish history, his 8,094 runs coming in 260 matches at an average of 30.89. He has scored 12 centuries and 49 half-centuries and his strike rate of 90.10 is well ahead of anyone else in Irish history.
At Middlesex, he was a mainstay of their limited overs sides, and to date has scored over 2,000 runs in both one-day and Twenty20 formats, while also scoring 1,662 first-class runs. He scored 11 centuries for the county and 30 half-centuries. He has also taken 60 wickets across the three formats with his off-spin bowling.
“It’s been a real privilege to represent Middlesex Cricket over the last decade, and it has been an unforgettable journey for many reasons,” said Stirling . “Winning the Championship in 2016 was undoubtedly the highlight on the field, while also receiving my county cap will be something I will cherish for a very long time.
“However, it was the relationships built with the players, staff and supporters that was the most rewarding, and that I will miss the most. I would like to thank everyone I’ve met along the way at the club for their support over the years and wish Middlesex all the success in the coming years.
“I am looking forward to the next chapter with Ireland, with a busy year in 2020 and the T20 World Cup Qualifier coming up it is an exciting time to be a part of.”
Middlesex director of cricket and former England bowler Angus Fraser said: “From a selfish and Middlesex point of view it is obviously sad to see Paul leave. His aggressive and destructive batting has thrilled Middlesex players and supporters for a number of years. There have been many Middlesex cricketers that have scored more runs than Paul but very few have played innings as memorable.
“I will never forget the afternoon he and Eoin Morgan scored hundreds against Lancashire as Middlesex smashed 350 in a 40-over game. I have seen very few players strike the ball like him and he has been a joy to work with.
“The Middlesex coaches and myself totally understand Paul’s decision. It has not been an easy one and I know he has thought about it long and hard. Playing for your country is something that should never be taken for granted. It is an honour and a privilege, and to finish a career with regrets is something nobody wants to do.
“Everyone at Middlesex fully respects Paul’s decision and we hope he achieves all that he wants with Ireland. He will always be welcome at Lord’s and if he ever feels like coming back to play for us in any capacity he has my phone number.”
Welcoming Stirling’s decision, Cricket Ireland performance director Richard Holdsworth said: “We are delighted that Paul has committed his long-term future to Ireland, although appreciate it must be a bittersweet moment for him leaving Middlesex. He is a model professional and key member of our international squad in all three formats. His experience and approach to the game is invaluable both on the pitch as a senior pro and consistent performer, and in the dressing room with the emerging players coming through.”
“We would like to thank Angus Fraser and the Middlesex hierarchy for such a positive working relationship with Cricket Ireland regarding Paul’s, and other Irish players’ development over the years. Middlesex’s proactive and cooperative approach has ensured we could all work together to develop Paul as a cricketer and manage his Paul’s progress and availability for international duties over the years.”
Stirling’s Middlesex and Ireland team-mate Tim Murtagh has yet to reveal his decision on his international future, and said as recently as August that he had yet to make up his mind.