World Cup schedule announced

Belinda Clark

Former Australia captain Belinda Clark holds the 2005 World Cup aloft in Pretoria

The ICC and Cricket Australia have confirmed the fixtures and schedule for next year’s ICC Women’s World Cup in Australia.

The tournament will see the world’s top eight teams compete at six venues across New South Wales in 16 days from March 7–22 2009.

At least six of the event’s 25 matches will be broadcast by the ICC’s official broadcaster, ESPN STAR Sports. All of those broadcast matches, including the final, will take place at North Sydney Oval, a regular one-day venue for the New South Wales men’s team.

The format sees the teams divided into two groups. The top six teams are seeded on the basis of their finishing positions in the 2005 tournament and they are joined by South Africa and Pakistan, the top two sides from the qualifying event.

Defending champions Australia, New Zealand, West Indies and South Africa are in Group A while India, England, Sri Lanka and Pakistan make up Group B.

The top three sides in each group go forward to the Super Six stage where each side then plays the teams to have qualified from the other group. The top two sides from the Super Six go forward to the final.

Australia, who won the event in South Africa in 2005, will begin their campaign with a trans-Tasman clash against New Zealand at North Sydney on March 8.

Losing 2005 finalists India get under way on the opening day of the tournament, against neighbours Pakistan at the Bradman Oval in Bowral, the same day that England start against Sri Lanka at Manuka Oval in Canberra.

South Africa and West Indies, the two other teams in the tournament, play each other in Newcastle also on March 8.

Five of the six venues – Bankstown, Bowral, Canberra, Newcastle and North Sydney – have already staged women’s one-day internationals. The other host ground in the tournament, Drummoyne, will host five matches.

Next year’s World Cup will be the ninth staging of an event that pre-dates the men’s World Cup – the women’s version started in 1973, compared to the inaugural men’s tournament in 1975.

It is the first to come under the control of the ICC following its merger with the International Women’s Cricket Council in 2005.

David Morgan

ICC president David Morgan described the Women's World Cup as "the pinnacle of the women’s game"

ICC president David Morgan said: “The ICC Women’s World Cup is the pinnacle of the women’s game.

“It is a best-of-the-best event that happens once every four years, it showcases all that is great about women’s cricket, and the ICC is delighted to have it under its umbrella for the first time.

“The profile it will have allows us to grow women’s cricket in the same way we have with the men’s game over several years, and we are already starting to see the benefit of the merger with the IWCC through ever-increasing coverage and the financial benefits for the top players that flow from that.

“The ICC’s partnership with ESPN STAR Sports should ensure that exposure and participation increases at all levels.”

Tournament director Eugénie Buckley added: “Cricket Australia is looking forward to showcasing the global enthusiasm and interest that exists for the women’s game. We hope the successful staging of this tournament will increase the profile of our female cricketers and leave an enduring legacy.”

Australia captain Lisa Sthalekar said: “Events like these will enable women’s cricket to promote the game at the highest level.

“The reason for this is that with at least six matches televised it will make the game more accessible to a wider audience.

“Thanks to this exposure it is only a matter of time before cricket will be competing with other high-profile women’s sports."

New Zealand skipper Haidee Tiffin added: “Everybody wants to be world champions and have that title against their names.

“It is an amazing experience to play at the World Cup – it is our version of the Olympics – and it is a great opportunity to showcase the game and show that it is a fantastic spectacle.”

England were the inaugural World Cup winners in 1973. Since then there have been a further seven tournaments with Australia winning five of them (1978, 1982, 1988, 1997 & 2005), England winning once more in 1993 and New Zealand triumphing in 2000.

The tournament has been staged twice each in England (1973 and 1993), India (1978 and 1997) and New Zealand (1982 and 2000) as well as Australia (1988) and South Africa (2005).