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Women's Challenge Cup Semi-Finals Preview

Sam Grant  

The Gallagher Women's Challenge Cup reaches the business end this Sunday with two intriguing semi-finals in store, the first being a repeat of last year's final, with CSNI travelling to Pollock Park to face the reigning champions Lurgan. CSNI have been the form team in NCU women's cricket this year, being unbeaten in the Premier League and overcoming Waringstown in the previous cup round.

Their disciplined and incisive bowling attack has consistently restricted opposition sides, and with the experience of Alison Cowan at the top of the order, they will prove a tough challenge if Lurgan wish to win their third consecutive cup. However, there is a reason that Lurgan have consistently featured on finals day, with proven performers such as Hannah Grieve and Susie McCollum capable of delivering match winning performances, ensuring that previous form will mean little once the game is underway.

The other semi-final features the surprise package of the year in Instonians, who host Muckamore at Shaw's Bridge. The Division 1 side have reached the semi-finals courtesy of a commanding win over Premier League mainstays North Down, where NCU and Ireland youth talent Amy Hunter savaged the Comber bowling unit on her way to 130 not out.

It would be naïve to consider this result a fluke however, as Instonians have been consistently improving for a number of years, and Laura Milliken's 4 wicket haul in the North Down win shows that they are far more than a one trick pony.

However, their hopes of a maiden final appearance rest on overcoming a formidable Muckamore team, fresh from their Premier League title win in 2018. Their batting strength, in particular the partnership between Suzi Morrison-Keates and Amy Caulfield, has been too much for many a side to handle this season, including Carrickfergus in the previous round, as the prolific partnership amassed almost 200 unbeaten runs.

This game could well be a tale of which bowling attack can neutralise the opposition batting prowess most effectively, but there should be no lack of run scoring for the spectators.