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Big-hitting opening batter Paul Stirling can't wait to grasp his Edgbaston opportunity.

The Ireland international was named as the Bears second overseas player for the Vitality Blast last month after being a prominent figure in The Hundred, the Pakistan Super League, the Bangladesh Premier League and the Abu Dhabi T10.

The 31-year-old has a strong reputation in the game as a destructive force at the top of the line-up, but with international commitments, a Vitality Blast call seemed unlikely.

Step forward Paul Farbrace, who signed the Belfast-born right-hander for the opening 12 games of the tournament, including the seven home fixtures at Edgbaston. He may also be available for Finals Day if the Bears secure a place at their home ground Saturday 16 July after completing international duty.

“I’m delighted it crossed the line as it came up pretty recently,” Stirling explained. “I really enjoy playing in England and I haven’t missed a season, so I was hoping something came up. I didn’t quite expect it to come up this way, which is even better as it came out of the blue.

“I spoke to Farby – I was with him in the T10 – and I can’t wait to get started. I’m delighted that the Bears and Cricket Ireland have got it over the line.”

The opportunity to play in front of big crowds is something that Stirling didn’t want to miss. With the Bears hosting some of the biggest teams in the North Group, plus the added incentive of a derby with Worcestershire, the current Ireland vice-captain is desperate to embrace that Edgbaston reputation.

“I know what a great club it is, there’s so much history behind it – especially with that Hollies stand,” Stirling added. “I can’t wait to get over there and play in front of it.

“I haven’t played too much cricket there at night where people come in after work and have a great time, but you always see it on the TV and think ‘jeez that’s someplace to play’.

“That’s really exciting and hopefully people come in their droves and we have packed houses.”

Early Bird tickets for Vitality Blast matches at Edgbaston are still available, including adult tickets for only £13 for our opener against Northamptonshire Steelbacks on Thursday 26 May, but hurry as prices will rise from Monday 2 May.

Season Pass – 8 games for £85

Watch all seven Birmingham Bears home Vitality Blast matches in 2023, plus Vitality Blast Off, for only £85 with a T20 Season Pass.

Season Pass holders will also get a host of benefits, including a free guest pass. And with the new Blast Off debut, Season Pass holders will enjoy eight games in 2023.

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