England became the second team to qualify for the ICC Women's World Cup 2017 with a 122-run victory over Sri Lanka in the first match of their Women's Championship series in Colombo today.
The win took next year's ICC Women's World Cup host to 25 points from 19 matches on the points table. Australia has already won the IWC title with 30 points from 18 matches while the West Indies is close to qualifying with 22 points from 19 matches.
The West Indies lost the opening match of its ongoing IWC series against India on Thursday and is due to play the next match on Sunday in what is a busy IWC schedule stretching to November 23.
The top four sides from the IWC gain direct qualification for the ICC Women's World Cup 2017 while the bottom four sides will have to qualify through the 10-team Women's World Cup Qualifier 2017 in Sri Lanka's capital Colombo from February 7-21.
New Zealand has a good chance of qualifying as it needs to win two of its three matches against lower-placed Pakistan in a home series. South Africa has an outside chance since it will have to defeat World champion Australia and also hope for other favourable results.
England captain Heather Knight was excited at the prospect of playing the World Cup in home conditions.
"It's a brilliant feeling to have secured automatic qualification for the ICC Women's World Cup in England next summer. We have the best fans in the world, so to get the opportunity to play in a World Cup on home soil is really exciting, and something that we are all already looking forward to.
"Playing in that first round of the Women's Championship against India back in 2014 now feels like a very long time ago. We have grown and developed so much as a squad since then, especially in the last 10 months or so, and we are learning all the time. How we played against Pakistan this summer, followed-up by the hard fought victory in the Caribbean, is testament to the work that the players are putting in right now," she said.
Knight said her team was aiming to keep the momentum in the coming months.
"We are still a young team, and there will continue to be the odd bump as we move forwards, but this is a really exciting time for us as a group. Our main focus now is to stay in the moment and make sure that we finish the year on a high out here in Colombo.
"There's still a lot of hard work to come over the next eight months, and a lot of cricket to be played, but I think every cricketer grows up dreaming of playing in a World Cup final at Lord's, and by winning today, that dream has come one step closer for us.
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