Whether it’s shocking Pakistan at the World Cup in West Indies or getting the better of England in the 2011 World Cup to prove that their surprise win in the 2007 edition of ODI cricket’s grandest stage wasn’t a fluke, Ireland have offered plenty of surprises to the cricketing world over the years. No pushovers by any stretch of the imagination, Ireland have always remained competitive in the unforgiving environment of international cricket.

Key to them remaining competitive is their solid batting line-up and here, we focus on the top five individual batting efforts in the history of Irish ODI cricket.

Paul Stirling’s 177 against Canada (September 7, 2010)

A naturally aggressive batsman who loves to attack opposition bowlers and not allow them to settle, Paul Stirling topping this list won’t come as a surprise to many. He made Ireland’s highest-ever individual score during the second ODI of their tour of Canada in 2010. After losing the toss and being asked to bat, Stirling must have made Canada regret their decision to field as the Irish opener proceeded to put the opposition bowlers to the sword.

He scored 177 from just 134 balls at a strike-rate of 132.08 and hit 21 fours as well as five sixes along the way as Ireland eventually recorded a 92-run win and Stirling was declared Player of the Match. 

Ed Joyce’s 160* against Afghanistan (July 19, 2016)

Ed Joyce’s unbeaten 160 against Afghanistan was a pivotal knock in the context of the five-match series between the teams since it helped Ireland draw the series. Joyce opened the batting and finished the innings having scored 160 from 148 balls at a strike-rate of 108.10.

He hit 19 fours and three maximums over the course of the innings and helped Ireland post 265 on the scoreboard. Ireland eventually won the match by 12 runs to draw the series, and Joyce wasn’t only declared the Player of the Match but also the Player of the Series for his efforts.

Andy Balbirnie’s 145* against Afghanistan (March 5, 2019)

The current captain of Ireland across all formats, Andy Balbirnie’s unbeaten 145 also came against Afghanistan and happened in March of last year. With a target of 257 to chase on the scoreboard, Balbirnie walked into the middle with the score reading 13-1 after William Porterfield, who was the Irish skipper at the time, was dismissed. Undeterred by losing partners around him and with the help of a crucial 150-run plus partnership George Dockrell, Balbirnie managed to guide his team to a four-wicket win.

Balbirnie remained unbeaten on 145 off 136 balls and hit eight fours as well as eight sixes en route to being rightfully adjudged the Player of the Match.   

Kevin O’Brien’s 142 against Kenya (February 2, 2007)

While everyone might recall Kevin O’Brien’s stunning 63-ball 113 against England at the 2011 World Cup in India, it’s worth pointing out that it isn’t his highest ODI score. O’Brien’s highest ODI effort, in fact, came four years before his heroics against England and eventually went in vain as Kenya won a thrilling encounter by a wicket.

Batting first, then captain Porterfield and O’Brien both played starring roles for Ireland with the former scoring an unbeaten 104 and the latter a 125-ball 142 at a strike rate of 113.60. O’Brien smashed 10 fours and six maximums in his innings as Ireland scored 284, which Kenya chased down with a wicket and an over to spare.

Paul Stirling’s 142 against England (August 4, 2020)

Perhaps fittingly, Stirling bookends this list and also happens to be the most recent innings here. The destructive Irish batsman was at his belligerent best with a target of 329 to chase. Even though the series was already wrapped up by England, Stirling was determined not to let them have things all their way and attacked the opposition bowlers from the outset.

He was eventually run out but not before scoring 142 from 128 balls at a strike-rate of 110.93. He hit nine fours as well as six maximums and was well supported by Balbirnie, who also scored a ton to help Ireland to a seven-wicket victory with a ball to spare.

Feature image courtesy: AFP / Mike Hewitt