PAUL STIRLING scorched to his first T20 international century at Bready, carrying his bat for a magnificent 115 not out from 75 balls as Ireland beat ZImbabwe by 40 runs to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series.

While the Belfast superstar was at his thunderous best, clearing the boundary eight times to equal his own Ireland T20i record for sixes in an innings, he also showed the maturity in his game by building to a crescendo after a watchful run-a-ball start.

At the beginning of the 19th over Stirling was on 77 and not certain to pass his previous short-course best of 95 against the West Indies last year but he struck three maximums as well as a four and jogged to his century with a single off the final ball.

Another Stirling six followed in the final over, and an eighth four from the final delivery took Ireland to 178-2, with 69 of those runs runs coming from the final 27 balls in a third-wicket partnership with Shane Getkate who made 19 not out.

“It was a tricky start but we managed to get through the new ball,” Stirling said. “After losing the toss, you just try to get a score for the team. We were chatting about a total of 150-160, so we were absolutely delighted getting what we did.”

Zimbabwe made an early fist of chasing a target that was 15-20 above par but lost wickets at regular intervals and had no answer to the medium-pace wiles of Mark Adair who claimed 3-11 from his three overs.

Leg-spinner Ben White also impressed taking 2-23 and when Getkate slipped one through the defences of Zimbabwe skipper Craig Ervine to claim his second scalp the chase subsided to 138 all out.

The only disappointment for an enthusiastic crowd was that debutant William McClintock did not get to bat - but the big-hitting local hero is likely to get another chance when the teams square up for round four.