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Gallagher Women's Challenge Cup Final - Match Review
Johnny Morton

CSNI - Winners of the Women's Challenge Cup 2021CSNI picked up their second Gallagher Women's Challenge Cup crown at The Lawn on Sunday as they beat North Down by 24 runs.

North Down captain Staci Maxwell elected to bowl after winning the toss and immediately justified her decision by bowling CSNI skipper Rachael Thomas (0) third ball and when Jemma Gillan (4) followed in the next over, the Stormont side were sitting on 4-2.

Sophie Thomas joined Alison Cowan, who has been one of the best performers in the women's game in recent seasons, at the crease and the duo steadied the ship for their side, putting on a partnership of 46.

That was brought to an end when Cowan (23) was trapped lbw by Rebecca Webster and her dismissal was the first in another cluster of wickets which left CSNI in trouble.
Andrea Adair was run out off the very next delivery before Thomas (17) handed Kazia Dines (2-10) her first wicket and she had another a matter of balls later when a superb Evey Keenan catch dismissed Beth Healy.

The quick flurry reduced CSNI from 50-2 to 54-6 in the space of seven deliveries and it took another superb partnership between Aoife Fisher (17) and Abbi Leckey (24) to pull the Belfast outfit up to what turned out to be a defendable total.

Both players showed great intent when they arrived at the crease and had put on a stand of 46 in just 34 balls to push CSNI up to 100-7 when Fisher was bowled by the returning Maxwell, but Leckey remained and was the last wicket to fall when she was run out in the 19th over.

Abbi Leckey and Neil HunterHer efforts meant CSNI finished on 116 all out and their defence got off to the best possible start when Fisher picked up a wicket with the first ball of the innings.

Gillan (1-18) shared the new ball with Fisher and got in on the action herself by bowling Natasha Morton (8), and their tight bowling meant North Down couldn't ever create any momentum in their chase.

They'd reached just 18 after seven overs before Emma Scott (1-18) put CSNI further into the ascendancy by picking up a third wicket of the innings, taking a catch off her own bowling to remove Sandi Harrison (3).

Just like Leckey did in the CSNI innings, Ali Millar (37) was able to produce a more aggressive and busy approach, upping the run-rate for the Comber outfit but despite her boundaries, they were always well behind where they needed to be.

Millar shared a fourth-wicket partnership of 43 with Maxwell (14) but when the latter was caught behind off the bowling of Leckey and the former run out, the game was all but over as a contest.

North Down finished on 92-5 – 24 runs short – as CSNI marked their fourth consecutive Gallagher Challenge Cup final appearance with a second trophy.

Abbi Leckey – just like in the 2019 final – was named Player of the Match for scoring 24 from 24 balls and bowling figures of 1-18.

Gallagher Women's Challenge Cup Summaries