Ireland will take on formidable opponents at Trent Bridge in September when they come face-to-face with Eoin Morgan's reigning World Champions, England.

But, already this year, Andy Balbirnie's men have shown they posess the stomach for the fight when coming up against garlanded opponents - with T20 Champions West Indies the latest to suffer a chastening defeat.

Secure your seats for England v Ireland at Trent Bridge on Thursday 10 September here.

After the Emerald Isle completed their ascent to international cricket’s highest tier, there was a real and present danger that whatever followed would be anticlimactic.

Having gained ICC Associate Member status, competed in ODIs, humbled the likes of Pakistan and England, and become a Test-playing nation, could any achievement stand up to those that had gone before? Five years on from Ireland’s most recent giantkilling, when – if ever – would the next one arrive?

By 15 January 2020, that question had been emphatically answered. And West Indies can’t say they weren’t warned.

The men in maroon survived an almighty scare in the second ODI between the two sides in Bridgetown, with a six from the penultimate delivery of the final over securing victory for the hosts after a disciplined Irish bowling performance.

Just six days later, the two sides met once again, this time in the first T20I of a three-match run.

And while drama cascaded throughout the entire encounter, it was the first six overs of the Irish innings that dazzled.

Kevin O’Brien and Paul Stirling may have amassed 164 T20I appearances between them, but never before had they enjoyed a day in the sun quite like this.

West Indies’ first over went for five, but Stirling and O’Brien were soon hitting their straps.

Overs two and three cost 15 runs apiece, the fourth went for 16 – and then came carnage.

The Dwayne Bravo comeback began in earnest as the Trinidadian took the ball for the fifth over, but Stirling was in no mood to play second fiddle to the returning all-rounder.

A clip off the pads for four, a bludgeon over long-on for six and a carve over long-off for another maximum contributed to an 18-run over – but the burly opener still had more to give.

Khary Pierre’s final over began with a launch over long-off for six, completing Stirling’s fifty from just twenty balls.

It was the second-fastest half-century ever scored by an Irishman. The fastest? A certain Paul Stirling, eight years previously.

Next up came a hoick over long-on for another six. Two balls later, a sweep past deep backward square, before another sweep, this time squarer, took Ireland into the 90s.

The visitors would finish the powerplay on 93 without loss. No international team has ever made more from their opening six overs.

Ireland seemed out of sight, but West Indies proved to be far from out of the contest.

Dwayne Bravo, pride bruised, would bowl three more overs at a cost of just ten runs in total, removing Gareth Delany and a rampant Kevin O’Brien.

The Windies, spearheaded by the consistently impressive Evin Lewis, reached 105-2 at halfway in pursuit of 2019 to win. But they would prove to be architects of their own downfall.

Captain Kieron Pollard made 31 from 14 balls before attempting one big shot too many, holing out to long-on.

Sherfane Rutherford crashed 26 from 13, but he too would prove too greedy, miscuing a slog into the leg-side.

And the Irish would survive a final scare courtesy of a final over Dwayne Bravo six to squeak home by four runs.

As preparations for their defence of the T20 World Cup go, it was far from ideal for Pollard’s side, but all eyes were on the Irish.

Paul Stirling would deservedly claim the man-of-the-match award, just as he had when his side bettered the West Indies in the 2015 Cricket World Cup.

In the age of the sculpted, honed athlete, the burly right-hander may be an anachronism. But – not for the first time – he had conjured up a performance to rank with any in Irish and world cricket history.


Eoin Morgan’s world champions, England, will face Ireland in a One-Day International at Trent Bridge on Thursday 10 September 2020. Secure your seats…