Stand-in skipper Julian Russell led by example to help leaders Colchester and East Essex record an important victory over Wickford.
The experienced Australian, who captained Colchester in the absence of Ben Stephens, hit a vital 82 to lead them to a five-wicket win at Castle Park.
It helped preserve their 18-point lead at the top of Shepherd Neame division one, with five games remaining.
Russell said: “It was a good day all-round."
For more on this story and a two-page round-up of all of the latest local cricket action, see Wednesday's Daily Gazette.