Paul Stirling to return to Middlesex for Vitality Blast but Mitch Marsh stint cancelled

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Paul Stirling bats for Middlesex in 2019 (Getty Images)
Paul Stirling bats for Middlesex in 2019 (Getty Images)

Ireland’s Paul Stirling will return to Middlesex during this summer’s Vitality Blast, but Australia’s Mitchel Marsh will not be fulfilling his stint with the county.

Stirling played for Middlesex for 10 seasons until 2019, when changes in regulation meant he had to choose between representing Ireland in international cricket or playing county cricket as a local player. Having just turned 29, chose Ireland, describing it as “the biggest decision of my career”.

But Stirling, a popular figure at Middlesex, is returning as an overseas player, after the club saw off interest from a number of other counties. He was a prolific white-ball batsman while at the club, scoring nine centuries, while also being part of the 2016 County Championship-winning squad. As well as powerful hitting at the top of the order, he provides a handy spin-bowling option.

It is understood he will play at least five games for the club, joining after Ireland’s tour of the Netherlands concludes on June 7. Middlesex’s Blast campaign begins three days later with a London derby against Surrey at Lord’s.

Since leaving, Stirling enjoyed a stint as an overseas player with Northamptonshire in last year’s truncated Blast, too. With Covid-19 causing chaos with getting overseas players into the country, Irish players are likely to remain in demand for the Blast, which in turn could represent a chance for them to put themselves in the shop window for the Hundred, which is also having problems securing overseas players.

Middlesex are experiencing such issues of their own. Director of Cricket Angus Fraser revealed in an in-depth interview on the club’s channels that Aussie international Marsh could no longer join, because he has been named in Australia’s white-ball squad to tour the Caribbean in July. After Covid-19 caused a delay in his contract in 2020, this is the second time that Marsh’s stint with Middlesex has been aborted.

“Mitch Marsh can no longer come along, because he’s been selected on Australia’s tour of the West Indies,” said Fraser. “They have to prepare in the West Indies and quarantine, which suddenly takes you back to the start of our season.”

Fraser admitted that getting Mujeeb Ur-Rahman, the 20-year-old Afghanistan spinner, over for his spell at the club is a “challenge”.

“It’s been far from straightforward, getting overseas players and things like that,” he said. “Speaking to other Directors of Cricket, there are a lot of new routes that are being explored to get your players to play county cricket this summer. We have that challenge with Mujeeb.”

There is a possibility that Peter Handscomb, Middlesex’s club captain who has played T20 cricket for Australia, could play in the shortest format to cover a shortfall, while Stirling could extend his stint, too.

Meanwhile Middlesex have announced an unchanged 13-man squad for tomorrow’s Championship match against Surrey at the Kia Oval. It features the XI that faced Hampshire at Lord’s last week, plus Tom Helm and Thilan Walallawita.

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