Derek Semmence

The youngest Sussex player to score a century

Derek Semmence was a right-handed batsman who bowled right arm medium pace. He played for Sussex between 1956 and 1959 before returning to Sussex in 1967. After his career in First Class cricket was over, Derek continued to be involved in cricket at youth level, becoming an excellent coach at Hurstpierpoint College.

Derek was born in Worthing on 20 April 1938 and educated at Shoreham Grammar School before he made his first class debut for Sussex in 1956 at the age of eighteen against Warwickshire, scoring 36. Later in the season Derek had the great thrill of scoring a maiden century of 108 off the Nottinghamshire bowlers at Trent Bridge to make him the youngest Sussex player to score a century in First Class Cricket.

D J Semmence in his debut season for Sussex, May 1956

He only played a handful of games

The Museum has produced a pamphlet about Derek’s maiden century titled ‘Derek Semmence – Youngest player to score a century for Sussex in First Class Cricket’, 60th Anniversary (limited edition of 50 – signed by Derek Semmence (2016). Copies are still available via the Museum’s website. Derek’s record stands to this day.

Derek was unfortunate to have played in a Sussex side that promised much but failed to deliver at all and Derek’s performances mirrored those of the club. The side was inconsistent and Derek himself never managed to put together a consistent run of scores that was needed to build his confidence and earn a place in the team. There was batting talent in the club for in the year Derek joined Sussex, 1956,  the first five batsmen were all chosen to play for England so it would have been difficult for Derek to establish a place.  His inconsistent play meant that he only played a handful of games in each of the years he played for Sussex.

Derek served in the Royal Air Force in his early years with Sussex and that entitled him to play for the Combined Services side from 1957, his debut being against Surrey. He had further games against Worcestershire and Warwickshire for Combined Services team before he moved on to play a trial game for Essex in 1962 against Oxford University in which he scored 24 and one. The trial was not a success and Derek moved on to Devon for whom he made his debut in 1964 in the Minor Counties Championship against Berkshire. He continued to play for the west country side until 1966, making nine appearances in total before returning to Sussex in 1967, for whom he played a further six first-class matches.

An inconsistent batsman

Derek was an inconsistent batsman at first-class level. In 35 matches for Sussex he had 55 innings scoring 841 runs at an average of 15.57. He scored just the one century (108) and two half centuries. After he left Sussex for the second time, Derek went on to play for Northumberland in the Minor Counties League, making 24 appearances, and for Cambridgeshire in 1976.

Derek exuded passion for the game and continued to be involved at various levels. Derek was an excellent coach and did an enormous amount for Hurstpierpoint College where he was cricket professional from 1967 and then groundsman from September 1975, a position he held until he retired in July 2003. He was also youth coach for Rajasthan in India. Derek played a lot of cricket for the Sussex Martlets club and was one of their key batsmen during the 1980s.

His seniors career

In  later years Derek played for the Sussex Over 50s, 60s and 70s teams.

Between 1988 and 2013, he played 121 games in total, scoring 2230 runs, one of just a few County Cricketers to play seniors cricket. His games included 57 games for the Over 50s 1st XI in which he scored over 1000 runs. He also took 105 wickets for the seniors including 60 for the Over 50s side. His best return was 6 for 30 against Essex at Three Bridges CC in 1998. He captained the O50s on three occasions and the O70s in 24 games.

Derek was also President of Worthing Cricket Club for 18 years.