THIS is the 11th edition of the Women’s World Cup and it promises to be the biggest and best yet.

The top eight teams in the world – Australia, England, New Zealand, India, West Indies, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Pakistan – will fight it out for the trophy over the next month and, with group stage tickets priced at no more than £10 across the board, there should be strong crowds to watch the action unfold.

The exposure for the tournament is greater than ever, with 10 matches to be televised across the world – these games will also see women’s cricket make use of the Decision Review System (DRS) for the very first time, with all other matches to be streamed via the ICC website.

Prize money has doubled as well, to $2m, so success in the tournament has the potential to make a huge difference to the further expansion of the game in whichever country emerges victorious.

England is the host nation for the first time since 1993, and the grounds being used to stage the tournament are testament to the continued growth of the women’s game in the intervening 24 years.

The 1993 tournament was played exclusively at outgrounds with the final at Lord’s, but this time four county grounds – at Bristol, Derby, Leicester and here in Taunton – are to play host to the group stages and the semi-finals.

The final remains at the home of cricket, and more than 11,000 tickets have so far been sold for the showpiece occasion on July 23.

Two members of the England squad, Fran Wilson and Beth Langston, visited Taunton in March and spoke enthusiastically about the progress women’s cricket has made in recent years.

Wilson said: “I played for Western Storm last year and there were proper crowds in with fans; they weren’t just passive crowds.

“A lot of them were 13 and 14-year-old girls who were actually supporting us and willing us to win.

“I think that’s a definite switch in women’s sport – whereas 10 years ago the crowd would basically just be your parents, now lots of people turn up and really get behind you.

“I see it as an important part of our job to inspire girls to play and make them excited about playing sport, particularly cricket.”

Langston added: “When we first started playing we had to play with boys.

“Now, however, there are loads more girls-only teams, which opens up great opportunities.”

Former England captain Charlotte Edwards agrees, and said on a visit to the County Ground recently: “Women’s cricket is growing every year – there is so much work being done through the Chance to Shine scheme and seeing so many young girls wanting to play the game is really encouraging. 

“There is now the opportunity to make a career out of women’s cricket, which is a fantastic message to send to our young girls. 

“Hopefully, this World Cup will be the springboard for women’s cricket in this country, especially if England can do well.”

England will certainly fancy their chances of success in the tournament, particularly with home advantage – they have won their previous two home tournaments, in 1973 and 1993, as well as winning it in Australia in 2009 – though they face strong competition from favourites Australia as well as the highly-fancied New Zealanders. 

With seven matches taking place in Taunton, cricket fans in this part of the world have the chance to see all eight teams in action at the County Ground between June 26 and July 15, including a re-run of last year’s final (Australia v West Indies – June 26) and the host nation (England v Sri Lanka – July 2) - don’t miss out on seeing the world’s elite on the doorstep!