Dubai: With 100 days to go for the ICC Women's World Cup Qualifier 2017, Colombo was on Sunday unveiled as the host of the 10-team event, which will be staged from 7-21 February next year.
The tournament will see the bottom four sides from the ICC Women's Championship, along with Bangladesh, Ireland, Papua New Guinea, Thailand, Scotland and Zimbabwe, going head to head for the four remaining spots in the ICC Women's World Cup in the United Kingdom from 26 June to 23 July.
While hosts Sri Lanka are certain to feature in the qualifier, the remaining three sides will be confirmed following the final round of matches to be played in November.
World champion Australia have already won the ICC Women's Championship and with it became the first side to book a ticket for next year's World Cup, while England, West Indies, New Zealand, South Africa, India and Pakistan are fighting for the remaining three automatic spots in the showpiece 50-over event.
The 10 sides in Colombo will be divided into two groups of five with the top three from each progressing to the Super Six stage, thus securing ODI status until the next ICC Women's World Cup Qualifier.
The top four sides from the Super Six stage will qualify for the ICC Women's World Cup 2017 as well as for the next ICC Women's Championship, while the top two sides will contest the final on 21 February.
As many as 30 50-over matches will be played in the two-week tournament, which will provide another opportunity for the women's sides below the leading nations to gain vital experience and exposure as well as hone their skills so that they are fully prepared and geared up for the ultimate event in women's cricket.
ICC chief executive David Richardson said the Colombo event will help the competing sides narrow the gap with the top women's sides.
"Thanks to the ICC Women's Championship, women's cricket has never been so strong and I am confident that next year's qualifying event will give further impetus to the women's game.
"With six teams currently battling for the three remaining automatic World Cup qualification spots through the Women's Championship, there are going to be some big names going into the qualifying event. This will create a highly competitive environment in Colombo and will also provide the emerging sides with an opportunity to continue to narrow the gap with the frontrunners, and with a place at the World Cup at stake, anything can happen which will make for an exciting tournament," he said.
Sri Lanka had finished fifth in the ICC Women's World Cup 2013, which was staged in India. Australia won the tournament after defeating West Indies by 114 runs. England had ended third, and was followed by New Zealand, Sri Lanka, South Africa, India and Pakistan.