Helmet use to be made mandatory in first-class cricket in England

Alastair Cook dons a helmet
Batsmen regularly wear helmets in practice as well as match situations

Helmet use is to be made mandatory for batsmen from next season in English first-class cricket.

Wicketkeepers standing up to the stumps and most fielders closer than eight yards will also have to wear helmets.

Slips, behind the wicket on the off side, will be exempt.

The announcement by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) comes almost a year to the day since the death of Phillip Hughes after being struck on the top of the neck by a ball.

The Australian batsman died aged 25, two days after being hit during a domestic match in Sydney, in November 2014. He was wearing a helmet.

The changes mean batsmen will have to wear helmets to face medium-pace and spin bowling as well as pace.

All male and female cricketers playing in professional cricket matches will be required to use helmets which meet the latest British safety standard.

The ECB is also recommending that all recreational cricketers wear helmets.

The recommendations follow a joint review by the ECB and the Professional Cricketers' Association, and were designed to reduce the risk of head and facial injuries within the game.

ECB chief medical officer Nick Peirce said: "As we have seen in recent times, the cricket ball can cause significant injury and it is extremely important that players take the appropriate precautions when batting, keeping wicket or fielding close to the stumps."