By two wickets, Leicestershire 251 for 8 (Budinger 102) defeated Essex 250 for 8 (Allsion 85, Thain 75*).
After defeating Essex by two wickets at Kibworth, Sol Budinger’s first century in any senior cricket format helped Leicestershire Foxes win their fifth game in a row and move within striking distance of the Metro Bank One-Day Cup’s knockout rounds.
As this club ground in southeast Leicestershire hosted the county’s first XI for the first time, the 23-year-old left-hander, who was coincidentally born in Colchester but raised in Australia, smashed 10 fours and six sixes in a 74-ball 102 to raise his overall score in this year’s 50-over competition to 365 at an average of 60.83.
Peter Handscomb (69) and Wiaan Mulder (36), who supported his efforts, helped Leicestershire, which was chasing 251, have enough to hold on and win with nine balls remaining despite some late concerns. The top Essex bowler, left-arm spinner Aron Nijjar, finished with three for 34 from 10 overs.
As Essex totaled 250 for eight after choosing to bat first, teenagers Charlie Allison (85) and Noah Thain (75 not out) both scored their greatest scores in senior cricket on a decent track. The two 18-year-olds added 105 runs in 18 overs for the sixth wicket.
The fourth-wicket partnership between Australian all-rounder Beau Webster (35) and Allison, the younger brother of seamer Ben, totaled 75 runs. For the Foxes, Tom Scriven, Josh Hull, and Chris Wright each took two wickets.
After a shaky start in which Wright dismissed Robin Das, who was caught at midwicket, and Luc Benkenstein, who was taken at point, with ill-timed smashes, Essex reached 20 for three inside the first eight overs. Tom Westley was then run out by Scriven’s direct hit after taking a daring single to midfield.
The Essex comeback was launched by Webster and Allison’s 19-over partnership, but it was halted just over the midway point when Scriven, who had only allowed 19 runs in his first seven overs, struck Webster and Simon Harmer with successive deliveries.
As Scriven’s figures started to deteriorate, Allison gained confidence and completed a 70-ball half-century, his second in the competition, by driving Colin Ackermann’s off-spin down the ground for the first of his three sixes. He then pulled Mulder into the netting fence protecting nearby houses to surpass his previous best of 70 against Middlesex four days earlier.
With five overs left, he must have been confident that he would register his first century, but Mulder bowled him after he had been put down at long-off on 83. Mulder attempted to play a scoop but missed.
William Buttleman and Thain kept the momentum going. Before he holed out to long-on, Thain reached his first fifty off 56 balls, and Buttleman’s 22 off 15 helped add 49 in the final five overs. Hull took off both of them and Jamal Richards in the final over to raise his total of wickets in his first season in the tournament to 12.
Leicestershire’s hitting has been a revelation this year.
This season, Leicestershire’s batting has been a revelation, and they started their reply with the same upbeat attitude that has become their trademark, soaring to 67 for two in the opening 10 overs. As Aaron Beard struck twice in three deliveries in his fourth over, they lost Rishi Patel (caught behind) and captain Lewis Hill (bowled without giving a shot), but Budinger set the tone once more with a 31-ball half-century—his fourth in five innings.
Budinger had a reputation for spectacular but fleeting innings in all forms of cricket, but this competition has seen him turn a corner, which his century here seemed to epitomize. Budinger went to Leicestershire from Nottinghamshire after spending the last season on loan at Grace Road.
He undoubtedly demonstrated his ability to be patient as Webster, Harmer, and Westley teamed in a tight 10 overs, with Handscomb providing guidance.
However, after Harmer unexpectedly dropped one in his arc, which he pulled for his fourth six, Budinger successfully went for Thain’s medium pace. His sixth six carried him to 99, followed after a brief pause by a single from a misfield, surpassing his previous maximum score of 89 against Gloucestershire for Nottinghamshire last summer. Even before finishing the run, he was having fun, earning an embrace from Handscomb for good measure.
Soon after the halfway drinks break, 19-year-old seamer Richards—one of four adolescents in an obviously young Essex team—sent one straight up in the air, which proved to be his undoing. Soon after, Ackermann followed, playing leg before the precise left-arm spin of Nijjar, at which time Leicestershire required 87 from 141 balls.
To keep Essex in the chase, Harmer dismissed Handscomb for a 94-ball score of 69, Nijjar removed Mulder caught behind and Tom Scriven leg before, and Roman Walker holed out off Webster. However, Wright was able to prevent any additional sway by hitting Webster over the covers for four points.
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