By Ronan Alexander
The Royal London Cup is going to be a proper breeding ground for young players this summer, with 37 players making their List A debut on the morning of the first five matches.
Here, we pick out four names to keep an eye on in the competition, although the list of talented youngsters in the tournament is endless.
EMILIO GAY (21) – Northamptonshire Steelbacks
Opening batter still waiting to make his List A debut, but has impressed in four-day cricket and played his first T20 match for the Steelbacks earlier this month.
A stylish left-hander who comes into the tournament off the back of 101 from 98 balls in the warm-up match earlier this week against Bedfordshire. That knock included 12 fours and a six as he looks to force his way into Northants side in One-Day cricket.
A big studier of the game, which he went into great detail about last month on the Scouting Cricket podcast which you can listen to below. What really shone through in the episode was his work ethic, desire to improve and passion for batting. Sees playing off his legs as one of his strongest assets and went on to score his maiden first-class ton earlier this season.
With being in and out the First XI, he’s played his fair share of Second XI cricket and excelled. Scoring 421 Championship runs at an average of 70, with one ton and three 50’s in six innings. Meanwhile in the T20, his strike rate is 184, scoring 94 runs from 46 balls, showing he has the power hitting side to his game as well as the elegant stroke play.
SONNY BAKER (18) – Somerset
A right arm quick you may be familiar with from pre-season where he attracted a lot of attention for his in-swing and bowling with an extra yard of pace.
He tore through Worcestershire’s top order in pre-season, grabbing 3 for 22 as the Pears were skittled for 116. His wickets were all reputable names too. Jake Libby, Brett D’Oliveira and Ben Cox.
With Somerset missing Lewis Gregory and Craig Overton to The Hundred, there will still be a healthy competition for places within the side, although Baker did open the bowling in their warm-up defeat to Cornwall, taking 1 for 57 from his 10 overs.
Has previously been in the England Development Programme and played nation counties for Devon where he came through their age-grade system. Been a regular feature for Somerset 2’s this summer, taking 11 Championship wickets at 26 during his 93.2 overs and grabbed 5 scalps in the T20 comp, with a healthy economy rate of 7.10.
SOL BUDINGER (21) – Nottinghamshire Outlaws
Expect some fireworks from this young Notts opener. Has all the ingredients to be a regular boundary striker and big six hitter, filling in the shoes of Alex Hales and Joe Clarke.
His Second XI stats this summer immediately jump out in T20 cricket. 294 runs at an average of 42, with one century and two 50’s. He has struck 18 fours and a remarkable 23 sixes, more than anyone else in the tournament. And that ratio of sixes to fours is also impressive. A player who likes to put the pressure back on the bowler.
His boundary percentage is 24.1, and in the First XI Blast, the only players to better that who are under 24 and scored over 200 runs are Tom Banton and Will Jacks. With the Outlaws also missing Ben Duckett, Tom Moores, Steven Mullaney and Samit Patel, Budinger will be part of a left hand dominated top order, alongside the likes of Ben Slater and Ben Compton.
He was born in Essex, moved to Australia aged 6 but was recommended to Notts in 2018 and has went on to flourish in 2nd XI cricket. Got five matches under his belt in the Blast but top scored with 21 so the best is yet to come, and this looks like the perfect opportunity.
JACOB BETHELL (17) – Birmingham Bears
A 17-year-old to be your front-line spinner is a big ask but also an exciting proposition. The youngest of all picks, the Barbados born all-rounder is very highly rated at Edgbaston. Will have a big part to play with his slow left arm spin, as Danny Briggs is injured, and Jake Lintott will be in action in The Hundred.
Has been solid with the ball in Second XI T20 action, taking 7 wickets with a healthy average of 11.85 and an impressive economy to match, standing at 5.92. That form earned him a place in the side for three Blast matches, although he failed to claim his maiden wicket.
Can expect him to be a regular feature in the middle overs, perhaps joined by fellow youngster Dan Mousley when he returns from injury.
Also more than capable with the bat, has featured between numbers 4-6 in the Bears 2’s order, smashing 197 T20 runs with a formidable strike rate of 155 and a boundary percentage of 19.7, including two half centuries. Will likely be lower down the order for the First XI but the potential is there for some useful lower order runs.
It’s a great opportunity isn’t it? And I still think that the 50-over format is a really challenging/interesting game.