Sussex cricket community pays tribute to one of its great servants

One of the great servants of cricket across Sussex, Derek Semmence, has died after a long illness, aged 81.

Derek Semmence pictured in 2006 with a signed bat from one of his India tours
Derek Semmence pictured in 2006 with a signed bat from one of his India tours

Derek had a lifetime of involvement in cricket across the county – a sport he touched in so many ways.

In 1956 he became the youngest batsman, aged 18 and 85 days, to score a first-class century for Sussex, at Trent Bridge against Nottinghamshire. The record’s 60th anniversary was celebrated at a Sussex players’ reunion two years ago, and which is still standing.

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Derek played 35 first-class matches for Sussex, made appearance for Essex and played several matches for the Combined Services XI during his National Service in the RAF.

After his first class career ended in 1968, he continued to play cricket in Sussex and beyond.

He was a much respected and highly regarded member of the Sussex Martlets and, in later years, the Sussex over-50s, 60s and 70s teams.

Derek was head of cricket at Hurstpierpoint College for many years, and was responsible for the development of many high quality cricketers from Hurst, most notably Martin Speight.

He maintained Hurst’s relationships with Indian Cricket, making regular visits to India, where he was similarly highly regarded by everybody he worked with.

Sussex legend and former MCC president John Barclay described Derek as “a wonderful man, fine cricketer and superb coach at Hurst and in India, and always so generous, modest and understated.” He added: “A great example to thousands of youngsters. A good friend who will be much missed.”

Derek also served as a player and president at Worthing Cricket Club, who said his passing had caused great sadness.

A Worthing spokesman said: “Derek joined the club in 1952, was our eighth president since the Second World War and the longest serving for 19 years, from 1998 to 2016 inclusive.

“He played for the club in our first league cup final appearance at Hove in 1982 and on through the 80s, 90s and into the 2000s.

“Overall Derek was a fantastic man who loved cricket. He will be remembered with great fondness by all that were lucky enough to meet or play cricket with him. Our condolences go out to his family.”

Derek leaves widow Christine, son Mark and daughter Jackie and a number of grandchildren.

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