A brief history ...
The first World Cup - which came two years before the men's version was born - was held in England, and won by the hosts in a one-sided final against Australia. The brainchild of Sir Jack Hayward, who paid £40,000 of the costs, the 60-over tournament comprised Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, England, Young England and an International XI, and the cup was awarded to the team at the head of the points table after the round-robin.
The competition was dogged by rain in the initial stages, but the weather held fair for the final match between the two top teams, England and Australia. It was a stroke of good fortune that the 21st and final match proved the decisive tie - and England defeated Australia by 92 runs at Edgbaston. The victory was given a royal seal of approval: the trophy was presented by Princess Anne.
Australia got their revenge against England, completing a comprehensive eight-wicket win with more than 18 overs to spare in the final. This time the competition was played in a 50-over format and was contested by only four teams - India, England, New Zealand and Australia - after West Indies and Holland had to withdraw because of financial difficulties.
Only six matches were played, held between January 1 and January 14. But that was six more than many people had expected: fears that the tournament would not go ahead were only ended when India - the only country which would attract large enough crowds to make it financially viable - agreed to host the tournament. The build-up was marred by controversy when England's captain Rachael Heyhoe-Flint was dropped amid rumours of jealousy of her popularity, with the older Mary Pilling replacing her in the leading role. Nevertheless, England managed to make the final, although they were soundly beaten after crawling to 96 for 8 at less than two an over.
New Zealand 1982
The same four teams that ran out in 1978 - plus an international XI - contested the third World Cup, and the format reverted to 60 overs. Australia took the honours once more when they faced England in a repeat of the 1978 final. The result went the same way when - in the penultimate over - Australia reached their target with three wickets to spare. More than 3000 spectators watched the match at Christchurch, and the game was also televised.
Yet again the old firm of England and Australia met in the final, but Australia extended their advantage, scooping the title for the third time in a row. The match was held at the MCG, where England eked out a painfully slow 127 from 60 overs. Australia's batsmen responded in equally slow, yet ominously deliberate, fashion, losing only two wickets in reaching their target with 15 overs to spare. Ireland reached the third-place play-off.
A giant leap for womankind: at last, a different finalist - New Zealand. They took on England, the hosts, for the trophy after winning all seven of their qualifying matches and conceding only 1.6 runs an over. Australia failed to qualify for the final for the first time, but England marched there thanks in no small part to Carole Hodges' match-winning century against the old enemy in the qualifiers.
England proceeded to scoop their second trophy in front of 4,500 at Lord's: lorry driver Jo Chamberlain was the hero of the hour with a spanking 38, a run-out, wicket and a catch. Denmark managed to win one match in what was an otherwise disappointing first World Cup, while Holland also won only one match.
The sixth World Cup returned to India in 1997, and the 50-over format made a comeback as one-day cricket was standardised worldwide; it is a format which has endured. Playing in front of vast crowds, Australia picked up their fourth World Cup when they overhauled New Zealand with three overs to spare in a thrilling final at Eden Gardens. Belinda Clark played a captain's knock with 52 as opener.
New Zealand 2000
New Zealand, the hosts, pulled off a shock four-run win over the favourites Australia in a nail-biting contest at Lincoln. After scoring only 184 New Zealand seemed to have blown their chances, but offspinner Clare Nicholson turned events in their favour when she bowled Belinda Clark for 91 with Australia on 150 for 7. They lost two more wickets and started the final over needing five runs, but Charmaine Mason fell on the first ball of the over. Finally, the World Cup trophy had a new name on it.
South Africa 2005
South Africa followed up the men's World Cup with the women's event two years later and the result was strikingly similar - Australia winning their fifth title after beating India in a one-sided final. They lost their openers early but were revived by Karen Rolton's unbeaten century that took them to 215. The target was competitive but India were overwhelmed by the occasion and fell 98 runs short. However the collapse was in contrast to India's performance earlier in the tournament. A washout on the first day followed three successive wins before they came up short against New Zealand. They met the same side in the semi-final but this time they were ready for the challenge; the young Indian captain Mithali Raj scored an unbeaten 91 to lead her team to its first World Cup final. Sky TV broadcast the semis and final in Pretoria.