It was the Andre Malan show at Stormont on Saturday afternoon as the South African professional struck 140 and took four wickets to help CSNI seal progression to the semi-final of the Gallagher Challenge Cup with a 153 run victory over North Down.
North Down won the toss and elected to field, and Malan strode to the crease with the score sitting on 18-1, putting on a partnership of 77 with newly-appointed Ireland Twenty20 captain Gary Wilson.
It was fantastic to see Wilson playing for his home club once again, and it really adds something to the cup competition when the Irish internationals are involved, even if it is seldom seen with County cricket obligations.
Morgan Topping then joined Malan and was looking in good touch, making his way to 18 before he was caught off the bowling of Stuart Nelson.
With CSNI sitting on 227-5 in the 45th over and setting their sights on a score of 280 and beyond.
Ruhan Pretorious returned to the attack and took two wickets and a run out in a single over, leaving the home side 233-8 and it looked like they were going to fall short of that massive score.
Malan brought his century up in the next over, and it was one that will live long in the memory of all present as he mixed finesse and timing with a wide range of power-hitting.
He struck 40 in the last five overs to drag CSNI up to 278 and finish himself on 140.
North Down’s Pretorious bowled superbly all afternoon, finishing with figures of 5-35 from 10 overs, including the key wicket of Wilson when it looked like him and Malan were going to take the game right away from the Comber side.
Malan picked up where he left off when it came to the run chase, picking up the first four wickets of the afternoon.
He bowledAlistair Shields with a fine ball that took the top of his off stump and also the vital wicket of fellow professional Pretorious.
Who was dismissed via a fantastic catch in the slips from Wilson.
It always felt like the target was going to be beyond North Down, especially at 72-4, and things went from bad to worse as they lost their last six wickets for only 53 runs, bowled out in the 33rd over for 125.
Spinner Morgan Topping showed his class in picking up 4-28 from his 10 over spell, while Malan ended with figures of 4-34.
CSNI remain unbeaten in white ball cricket, but it is now a challenge for them to translate this sort of form into the Premier League, where they have failed to win any of their first three games.
They will likely welcome Graeme McCarter back into the squad for next Saturday’s trip to Carrickfergus before travelling to Armagh in a crunch clash the following week.
It was a disappointing performance from North Down, especially on the batting front, with only Carl Robinson (44) making it past 20.
They face a trip to reigning champions Waringstown next weekend, and will be eager to put the below-par showing behind them and get back to winning ways as soon as possible.