Five young players to watch in the 2021 Royal London Cup

Which youngsters will be looking to make a name for themselves in the Royal London Cup this summer?

Ben Charlesworth

The stylish Gloucestershire opener suffered a dislocated shoulder ahead of the 2021 season, ruling him out for the start of a season and requiring hours of tireless rehabilitation with the county's medical staff.

But the left-hander returned with a bang in Gloucestershire's game against Wiltshire on 20 July, scoring 130 at the top of the innings as his team piled on 334/5 from their 50 overs. The measured innings lasted 146 balls and included 16 fours and a six, sharing a 110-run partnership with Graeme van Buuren and another 70-run stand with George Scott before Charlesworth was dismissed in the 44th over.

Charlesworth's county experience in 50-over cricket is limited, having played one List A game against Australia A in 2019, but featured in the England team at the 2019 ICC U19 World Cup campaign, scoring 82 in the side's tough loss to Australia.

The 20-year-old's presence at the top of the order will be huge for Gloucestershire's chances of success in the competition this summer, and if he can continue his fine form over the next couple of months then the West Country side will be tough to beat.

George Hill

Another member of England's U19 World Cup squad from 2019, George Hill has endured a bit of a lean spell recently, but when firing on all cylinders can prove a game-winner for his Yorkshire side.

A hard-hitting middle-order batsman and a handy seamer, Hill can be a dual threat, and, like Charlesworth, has a wealth of experience in 50-over cricket from his time with England U19s, for who he played 20 Youth ODIs.

While not picking up a wicket, Hill bowled well in Yorkshire's warm-up match against Northumberland, conceding just 21 runs from his six overs but didn't see any action with the bat as his side knocked off the 255 runs required by losing just one wicket. 

Yorkshire's Royal London Cup squad features a great mix of youth and experience and could be a good bet to go all the way to the final, so how Hill fares in any potential success will be interesting to watch.

Emilio Gay

While not nailed on for a spot in the Northamptonshire side for their first match against Glamorgan, Emilio Gay's excellent century against Bedfordshire on 20 July has certainly pushed his case for a place at the top of the order.

Gay's 101 came at just over a run-a-ball and included 13 boundaries. Some of the bowling was somewhat familiar, with Bedfordshire's Tom Brett having taught Gay at Bedford School in the not-too-distant past.

Despite being a regular presence in Northamptonshire's red-ball team in his young career so far, Gay's first-team white-ball experience was limited to just one Vitality Blast game before the match against Bedfordshire. If he gets the nod for the first game, the 21-year-old will have a chance to stake a claim for a regular place in the rest of the competition.

Lewis Goldsworthy

All-rounder Lewis Goldsworthy forced his way into the Somerset first team earlier this season through the sheer weight of runs he was scoring for the second XI and has steadily been acclimatising to life at the top level with a long run of games in the Championship and Vitality Blast.

The Cornishman, another member of England's U19 World Cup squad two years ago, has the technique and temperament to bat at number three but is also an excellent option in the lower middle-order to stabilise a faltering innings and get the scoreboard ticking.

He's diminutive in stature but doesn't shy away from taking on whatever bowling comes his way and is particularly strong through the covers and off his legs.

In white-ball cricket, Goldsworthy's bowling is an equally strong asset, with the left-arm spinner taking 12 wickets in his debut Blast season at just 22-a-piece. He was arguably England's best performer with the ball in the U19 World Cup, taking 12 wickets at an average of 9.58 and conceding just 2.34 runs per over in the six games played.  

Lewis Goldsworthy in Vitality Blast action for Somerset

Jamie Smith

One of the most promising young talents on the county circuit, Jamie Smith is proving himself to be quite adept at every format of the game.

He made his List A debut for Surrey in the 2019 Royal London Cup, playing five matches and averaging 22 with the bat - a stat he'll undoubtedly improve this campaign as he comes in off a run of decent performances in the Vitality Blast.

Smith's ability to shift between the different formats has been impressive so far, scoring 60 from 47 balls in Surrey's last Blast match, a week after grinding out 14 from 60 balls in the county's remarkable draw against Hampshire in the LV= Insurance County Championship.

It can't be easy being in Smith's shoes - the latest player to be a nailed-on future England star from such a young age, but his development and performances so far seem to show he's doing everything he can to live up to the billing.

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