Australia meet England early in World Cup

Daniel Gilhooly

Australia will face defending champions England in a blockbuster beginning to their women's Cricket World Cup campaign in New Zealand next year.

The ICC unveiled the draw for the eight-nation, 31-match tournament on Wednesday and trumpeted increased total prizemoney of $A5.3 million, up from $A3 million at the previous tournament four years ago.

With just four teams having qualified, the draw features numerous gaps, although the dates and venues are all in place.

Hosts New Zealand will face a qualifier in the opening match at Eden Park on February 6.

The Australia-England clash follows a day later at the iconic Auckland venue, bringing together two teams who have won 10 of the 11 editions of the tournament dating back to 1973.

Australia are six-time champions while the English made it four titles when they hosted the 2017 tournament.

Australia's matches against New Zealand and South Africa will be in Wellington and Hamilton respectively while they will face the four nations still to qualify in Tauranga, Wellington, Christchurch and Hamilton.

Christchurch's Hagley Oval will host the final on March 7.

ICC chief executive Manu Sawhney said the record prize pool reflected the growing status of the women's game off the back of the success of the just-completed women's Twenty20 in Australia which the hosts won.

AUSTRALIAN SCHEDULE:

Feb 7, v England in Auckland

Feb 10, v qualifier in Tauranga

Feb 13, v NZ in Wellington

Feb 16, v qualifier in Wellington

Feb 21, v qualifier in Christchurch

Feb 24, v qualifier in Hamilton

Feb 26, v South Africa in Hamilton