Abbi Leckey helps lead CSNI to second Gallagher Women’s Challenge Cup prize
An all-round performance from Abbi Leckey helped inspire CSNI to a second Gallagher Women’s Challenge Cup crown with a 24-run win over North Down at The Lawn.
The Stormont side have been in four consecutive finals, adding a second title to their previous success in 2019 and they’ll now be looking to wrap up the Premier League in the coming weeks to cap a memorable campaign.
They were inserted to bat after North Down captain Staci Maxwell won the toss and it was a story of two partnerships in between a cluster of middle-order wickets that secured victory.
Having been reduced to 4-2 inside eight balls, Alison Cowan (23) – who has been one of the most consistent performers in the women’s game in recent seasons – was joined at the crease by Sophie Thomas (17), and the pair put on 46 for the third wicket.
When Cowan was trapped lbw by Rebecca Webster, it started a mini-collapse as CSNI went from 50-2 to 54-6 in a seven-ball stint that threatened to derail their hopes of another title, but Aoife Fisher (17) and Leckey (24) shouldered the responsibility in sublime fashion.
The pair shared a stand of 46, scoring those runs in just 34 balls with strike rotation a key element of a partnership which dragged their side up to 100.
Fisher was then bowled by the returning Maxwell – who finished with brilliant figures of 2-6 from three overs – but Leckey remained and was the last wicket to fall in the 19th over, but not before she helped reach what turned out to be a winning total of 116.
North Down’s chase couldn’t have got off to a worse start as Fisher, who followed up her solid batting with astonishing figures of 1-5 from four overs, picked up a wicket with the very first ball of the innings.
The Comber outfit were never able to create any real momentum throughout despite only losing five wickets in their 20 overs.
Ali Millar (37) top-scored and struck four boundaries as she tried to drag her team back into the match but North Down ultimately fell 24 runs short of victory.
Leckey was deservedly named Player of the Match – just like she was in the 2019 final – for her batting contribution and figures of 1-18 from four overs.
It was a better result for North Down’s men’s team as they kept their Robinson Services Premier League title hopes alive with a narrow four-run win over Instonians.
Gayan Maneeshan (51), Stuart Nelson (42), Aniruddha Chore (41) and Ryan Haire (38) all contributed as North Down posted 226-6 in a reduced 40-overs-per-side game.
Oliver Metcalfe (51) and Nikolai Smith (51) put on an opening partnership worth 108 before James Hunter (30) pushed them up to 158-3.
Instonians needed 49 off the final five overs and left themselves requiring 11 from the last, but they fell just short as North Down secured the four points.
The gap to Waringstown remains eight points with both teams still scheduled to play four matches before the season draws to a close in mid-September.
CIYMS also continued their winning run with a convincing 70-run (DLS) victory over Carrickfergus.
John Matchett (66) led the way for the defending champions as they finished on 204 all out, striking three maximums in his 70-ball stay at the crease before Jacob Mulder (49) added some vital late runs, which included a tenth-wicket partnership of 49 with Carson McCullough (13*).
Three of Carrick’s top four batsmen – Jeremy Lawlor (26), Jacques Snyman (29) and CJ van der Walt (29) – all got starts but couldn’t push on as Graham Kennedy (4-26) starred once again.
Kennedy has been a top performer on a weekly basis since joining CIYMS ahead of the 2021 campaign and showed again why a maiden senior Ireland cap might not be far away.
He’s been included in the squad for an ODI series against Zimbabwe and helped reduce Carrick to 89-5, including the crucial wicket of Snyman, to ensure their opponents wouldn’t get near their required total.
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