From Test match level right down to under-8s enjoying their first taste of cricket, protective helmets have been part and parcel of cricket for more than three decades now.
But the origins of wearing something to protect the skull go back to the pre-War era and a player synonymous with Middlesex but with strong Sussex links as well.
Patsy Hendren was one of the great pre-War batsman, playing in 51 Tests and scoring more than 60,000 runs in his career including a staggering 177 centuries.
He was also something of a character, who would liven up games going nowhere with imaginative declarations or bowling changes.
Patsy – his real name was Elias but he was called Patsy because of his Irish ancestry – was also astute in recognising, unlike some of his peers, that a cricket ball on the head could hurt. Or rather, his wife did.
In 1933 Hendren caused something of a sensation at Lord’s when he came out to bat against the West Indies' fast bowlers Constantine and Martindale in a Test match wearing a special cap.
Made by his wife, this cap had three peaks, two of which covered the ears and temples, and was lined with sponge rubber.
Two years earlier Hendren had been struck on the head by a bouncer and wanted extra protection. He said that wearing the special cap – it could hardly be described as a helmet – also allowed him to play the hook and pull shots with more confidence.
Hendren retired and turned to cricket coaching, first at Harrow School and then for four years after the War at Hove. The late Jack Oakes, who played for Sussex between 1937-51, remembers a happy-go-lucky character that enjoyed passing on his knowledge to young players: “Patsy coming to Sussex was a great boost for the county. He helped a lot of the youngsters after the War and was always smiling and joking.”
Hendren returned to Middlesex to become the county’s scorer and died in 1962.
Javed Miandad, once of Sussex, squares up to Dennis Lillee in 1981
Sussex made a welcome return to the west of the county for their annual pilgrimage to Arundel’s Castle Ground.
The county have been playing in the Duke of Norfolk’s admittedly vast and well-appointed ‘back yard’ since the 1970s but it’s not the furthest westerly ground in Sussex that has staged first-class cricket.
It’s not well known, probably because they haven’t played there since 1950, that Sussex regularly staged Championship fixtures at Oaklands Park in Chichester in the first half of the last century.
There is record of a Sussex team comprising 16 players taking on an All England XI there in 1852. All 16 batted and James Dean, an opening batsman who played more than 300 first-class games, made 44 of their 89 runs.
Sixteen Championship games were staged there with nearby Hampshire the most popular visitors on five occasions. For five years immediately after the Second World War, Chichester staged its own cricket week with two fixtures. The last match there took place in June 1950, a drawn match against Glamorgan when Charlie Oakes scored a century for Sussex.
Just as far west, but on the Sussex coast, is Pagham Cricket Club’s ground at Nyetimber. It’s a pretty spot a stone’s throw from the sea and for two years in the 1970s the county hosted Oxford University here when games against the students carried first-class status.
The Sussex team that played there in 1979 was captained by John Barclay and included a future Sussex skipper, Paul Parker, who made a century and a future captain of Pakistan in Javed Miandad.
He went on to score more than 8,000 runs in 124 Tests for his country and was a fine batsman, although he is perhaps best known for an infamous dust-up with Dennis Lillee during a Test against Australia at Perth in 1981 when Lillee aimed a kick at the batsman and Miandad reacted by threatening to hit the Australian fast bowler with his bat! The pair had to be separated by umpire Tony Crafter.
Javed must have liked Pagham though. He played there in 1976 against Oxford too when the students’ side included Vic Marks, who these days can be found in the Test Match Special commentary box, and Chris Tavare, who played an important role in helping England win the 1981 Ashes as the slow-scoring foil to Ian Botham’s heroics.