Paul Stirling to sit out Ireland’s return to Test cricket

Ireland name men’s squads for seven-week tour to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka

Paul Stirling will not feature when Ireland end near a four-year Test cricket hiatus next month in Bangladesh. Stirling, who has played in all three of Ireland’s Tests since full-member status was granted in 2017, will focus solely on white ball cricket for the forseeable future as Ireland aim to qualify for next October’s ODI World Cup in India.

“It was a mutual discussion over more than one coffee,” said Ireland head coach Heinrich Malan when asked if Stirling’s omission was up to the player or the selectors. “It’s all about the well-being piece and finding balance between playing for Ireland and the commitments he has around the [franchise] leagues. We’ve got to an agreement that up until that World Cup he will only play white ball cricket for us.

“That creates some opportunities for lads we want to see in there, hopefully they hit the ground running as well.”

As well as the squads for the ODI, T20 and Test portion of the upcoming tour to Bangladesh, another Test and a pair of ODIs away to Sri Lanka have been confirmed. These will take place almost immediately after the Bangladesh trip.


In all, across the squads for two Test matches, 10 of the 15 players named have not played in the game’s longest format for Ireland. The headline inclusion is that of PJ Moor, the former Zimbabwe international who was overlooked for last month’s limited overs tour of the country of his birth. The Munster Reds skipper is one of two wicketkeepers named alongside Lorcan Tucker.

As expected, Josh Little misses the Test matches due to his Indian Premier League commitments. Harry Tector, Lorcan Tucker, George Dockrell, Curtis Campher and Graham Hume are the players to be named in each squad.

Former Ireland U19 spinner Matthew Humphreys earns a maiden international call-up, as has Northern Knights seamer Matthew Foster who replaces the rested Mark Adair for the Test in Sri Lanka.

“First and foremost he bowls left arm, which is something that we’ve cried out for from a skillset point of view,” said Malan on Humphreys’ inclusion. “The other thing we took into account [was] when he played for Ireland in the U19 World Cup, he was that go-to guy. He bowled in every phase, showed that he’s a competitor and that he can take wickets. He has all the traits and attributes we’re looking for.

“Test cricket is all about those specialists, and that’s what he brings to the party.”

Ben White and Andy McBrine are the other two front-line spinners named in the Test squads, meaning there once again is no place for 2021 ICC ODI team of the year member Simi Singh. Neither he nor Fionn Hand will feature in any squad having both played in the recent T20 World Cup. There is also a recall for James McCollum who last featured in an international game in January 2021.

Andrew Balbirnie will captain both Test matches but will step aside for the ODIs in Sri Lanka. Paul Stirling returns to lead the side then as the regular skipper is rested.

In the limited overs squads, there is a welcome return from injury for Craig Young. The North West Warriors bowler will feature in the T20s in Bangladesh and the ODIs in Sri Lanka; he will not be fit enough for the Tests. Conor Olphert has also recovered from injury to come into white ball contention.

David Delany has once again been overlooked, with Malan offering insight into why his international exile continues: “We had some really good discussions at the end of the summer, we want to see that point of difference, which I don’t think I’ve seen at all this year from him. I think there’s been a period where Cricket Ireland offered him a contract [in October 2020] and he didn’t accept it, so there’s a little bit of work to be done on both sides, on-field and off-field.

“First and foremost from a cricketing point of view, I’d like to see a bit more of that point of difference. I think people have spoken about that in the past but we haven’t necessarily seen [it, Delany’s high pace] over the last 12-18 months.”

Malan also confirmed that the home games against Bangladesh due to be held in May, part of the World Cup qualification process will take place in Chelmsford, Essex, rather than on home soil.

The bumper, five squad announcement comes just under a month before Ireland travel to the sub-continent. While the return to Test cricket garners excitement, given Ireland have qualification for the 2023 ODI World Cup and 2024 T20 World Cup on the line this summer, white ball still remains this year’s barometer of success.

“Honestly I just love red ball cricket,” explains Malan. “The context of this tour is built around the white ball side of things but also the excitement around getting back into Test cricket. Hopefully we can play more red ball cricket, domestically, in the Wolves [Ireland A] programme, exposing more players in our test squad so in two or three years, we build that consistency across three formats.”

Ireland squads for tour of Bangladesh

ODI: Andrew Balbirnie (captain), Mark Adair, Curtis Campher, Gareth Delany, George Dockrell, Stephen Doheny, Graham Hume, Matthew Humphreys, Josh Little, Andrew McBrine, Barry McCarthy, Paul Stirling, Harry Tector, Lorcan Tucker, Ben White.

T20: Andrew Balbirnie (captain), Mark Adair, Ross Adair, Curtis Campher, Gareth Delany, George Dockrell, Graham Hume, Matthew Humphreys, Barry McCarthy, Conor Olphert, Paul Stirling, Harry Tector, Lorcan Tucker, Ben White, Craig Young.

Test: Andrew Balbirnie (captain), Mark Adair, Curtis Campher, Murray Commins, George Dockrell, Graham Hume, Matthew Humphreys, Andrew McBrine, Barry McCarthy, James McCollum, PJ Moor, Harry Tector, Lorcan Tucker, Ben White.

Ireland squads for tour of Sri Lanka

Test: Andrew Balbirnie (captain), Curtis Campher, Murray Commins, George Dockrell, Matthew Foster, Graham Hume, Matthew Humphreys, Andrew McBrine, Barry McCarthy, James McCollum, PJ Moor, Harry Tector, Lorcan Tucker, Ben White.

ODI: Paul Stirling (captain), Curtis Campher, Murray Commins, Gareth Delany, George Dockrell, Stephen Doheny, Matthew Foster, Graham Hume, Matthew Humphreys, Andrew McBrine, Conor Olphert, Harry Tector, Lorcan Tucker, Craig Young.


Bangladesh vs Ireland, ODI series: March 18th, 20th and 23rd, Sylhet

Bangladesh vs Ireland, T20 series: March 27th, 29th and 31st, Chattogram

Bangladesh vs Ireland, one-off Test: April 4th-8th, Dhaka

Sri Lanka vs Ireland, one-off Test: April 18th-22nd, Galle

Sri Lanks vs Ireland, ODI series: April 26th and 28th, Colombo

Nathan Johns

Nathan Johns

Nathan Johns is an Irish Times journalist