Johnston tips Stirling for stardom
Updated: Saturday, 25 May 2013 14:02
Veteran all-rounder Trent Johnston believes Paul Stirling can surpass Eoin Morgan and become the best batsman to come out of Ireland.
Stirling has been touted as a possible England player in the future - and follow the path of Morgan in making the switch across the Irish Sea.
The 22-year-old opener underlined his growing status in Thursday's tied first RSA Insurance one-day international in Dublin, when he hit his second century in as many games against Pakistan.
Stirling has found it hard to break into Middlesex's team this season but showed no sign of rust with the ease of his timing the feature.
He drove seven-foot quick Mohammad Irfan and Junaid Khan with authority before clouting Saeed Ajmal, the world's top-ranked bowler, over the Clontarf Pavilion in reaching his fifth ODI ton.
"Without a shadow of a doubt that kid will go down in history as Ireland's best batsman," Johnston said ahead of tomorrow's decider in Dublin.
"He's one of the cleanest strikers of a cricket ball that I have ever seen be it to play with, against or watch on TV. It's just phenomenal.
"I'd probably like to see him use his head every now and then instead of going for some of those careless shots.
"But when he reins it in and plays cricket shots there is nothing better.
"He loves playing Pakistan in Ireland - that's two hundreds. I don't know why he's not playing more cricket for Middlesex.
"They must have some players there because that kid is a freak.
"He should go out and play that type of cricket every time he goes out to the crease.
"That's what is going to bring crowds back to cricket around the world - blokes like him hitting the ball."
Ireland can claim a first-ever series win against a full-member nation tomorrow after Thursday's dramatic opener.
Kevin O'Brien secured the tie with a swept boundary from the final ball bowled by Ajmal.
"The boys set it up again with the two openers and Kevin's innings at the end was phenomenal" - Trent Johnston
O'Brien plundered an unbeaten 84 from 47 balls, after Stirling set up the impressive pursuit of 276 in a match reduced to 47 overs by rain.
While Johnston said the players were "gutted" not to complete the job he said confidence was high as they look for an historic success tomorrow.
"Yeah absolutely, we'll certainly be going for it," he said.
"We came into this looking for a 2-0 series victory. That's not us just saying that; we believed as a squad we could have done that.
"The coaching staff have believed in us and our preparation has been very good.
"Going back over the first game we started very well but then we probably didn't perform with the ball. We probably bowled too many four balls and they capitalised on that.
"The batting was great. The boys set it up again with the two openers and Kevin's innings at the end was phenomenal."
O'Brien's big-hitting could earn him a lucrative contract in the newly-established Caribbean Premier League after he was last night confirmed as one of the players to go into the upcoming draft.
O'Brien was the only Irishman amongst the list of 18 international players for the month-long tournament that starts on July 29.
Cricket Ireland confirmed they would free O'Brien to play in the tournament, even though it may clash with a proposed three-game ODI series against Bangladesh.
Talks are ongoing about the prospect of the Tigers touring for a second consecutive summer, after they played a Twenty20 series in Belfast last year.
Should the series be agreed it would further boost Ireland's cricket calendar, which has been threadbare in past seasons.
After this week's matches Ireland are due to meet Australia A in a four-day game next month before hosting England in an ODI in September at their new ground in Malahide, north Dublin.
Ireland will also look to wrap up qualification for the 2015 World Cup with double-headers against closest rivals Holland and Scotland.