WHEN Jean Sparrowhawk began to lose her sight she was determined to remain positive, and now she is representing her county at cricket.

Jean, 83, is a member of the Dorset Dolphins visually-impaired cricket team and is thought to be the oldest player in the national league. On Sunday she took part in her first game - taking on the Gloucestershire Growlers.

Both teams are part of the South West Development League, and use specially-designed equipment for their partially-sighted players, some of whom are completely blind.

Dorset Dolphins was started by Dorset Blind Association and is run by its volunteers.

Jean said: "I am here purely for pleasure really, and to thank these amazing people for letting me play.

"I was coached at cricket some 64 years ago, but my coach at the time decided I was so appalling I should try something else, so I was a gymnast."

Jean, of Bear Cross, began losing her sight in 2008 and was despondent at first, but decided "there was no point sitting at home being miserable".

She said: "I got to know the Dorset Dolphins, crossed their threshold in a 'poor me' mindset but left with a zest for life.

"And now I have met these amazing people, and I am going sky diving and water skiing."

Also at the match at Poole Park cricket ground on Sunday afternoon was John Garbett, the development director for Blind Cricket England and Wales.

"The league has come a long way and we are still refining the rules and trying to get the ball slightly smaller," he said.

"In the UK, it started off as a social thing back in the 1960s, but it has become a lot more competitive. The social side is still very much there of course, even with the national team, and it is a great way to meet other blind and partially sighted people and learn about new technology and so on."

The rules are much the same as cricket, but the ball is larger and filled with ball bearings so it can be located by hearing. Players wear armbands to denote their level of sightedness from low visual impairment to completely blind.

Dorset Dolphins captain and coach Steve Bailey, of Westbourne, said: "It was a struggle to get the club up and running at first, but now we have a committee organised, and it is great to see friendships form and people get their confidence back.

"And I am chuffed to be representing my county."

To find out more about the club and the sport look up the Dorset Dolphins on Facebook and visit BCEW.co.uk.