It seems much longer than four years ago since England took the field for the World Cup in South Africa, and were defeated by Australia in the semi-finals.

Some were stung painfully into redressing their work-life balance or, as in Claire Taylor's case, their cricket-cricket balance. She promptly slashed her hours and became a management consultant - realising that she had been under-working; the office provided a welcome distraction.

But everyone was affected in some way - positively, as it happens. Taylor's one-day average leapt from 30.12 to 51.74 in matches since. And, in the intervening years, England women's landscape, and the team's prospects thereon, would change profoundly.

The ECB's long-term investment, which started in 1997, has been delivering acceptable returns for a while - bar the occasional poor performances. It is now skyrocketing - thanks, in part, to some extra funds which have further boosted the game.

Last year, Clare Connor and Mike Gatting helped arrange the synergistic deal in which players became cricket ambassadors. Flexible contracts led to flexible training for eight of the players, and competitive - in many senses - advantage over other nations, not just now but in the future, too. The players' advocacy in schools and clubs will undoubtedly assist in the game's future.

The immediate focus is on the very short-term. England head into the tournament with 14 wins on the spin, including against Australia, New Zealand and India. That figure does, however, include conquests of South Africa and West Indies, while the series with Australia was drawn 2-2.

Some observers now believe that they are very strong contenders for finalists this time around - and that the trophy could even return to the northern hemisphere; it was last lifted there in 1993.

Although they stand to gain maximum points to carry over into the Super Sixes, once there they are likely to face Australia and New Zealand. It will provide some entertaining cricket and will come down to who is best on the day.

Know your competition

India, who do not travel well, were easily beaten by England last time the sides met in 2008.

Pakistan have yet to beat England and should be overhauled with ease.

Sri Lanka should also not pose a problem.

Stars of 2009

Charlotte Edwards, the ICC's reigning Player of the Year, is England's superb captain and excellent batsman. Under her guidance, England have blossomed into real challengers.

Claire Taylor will be keen to avenge the heartbreak of semi-final defeat to Australia in 2005. In the intervening years, she has had such a sustained purple patch - including a magnificent century against India at Lord's - that she has been shortlisted for the Player of the Year for the last few years.

Sarah Taylor is one of cricket's brightest young things. An agile wicketkeeper - backed up by similarly lightning hands of Lauren Griffiths - and an exciting batting talent. Her fast-scoring efforts, combined with her athleticism make her one to watch.

Squad: Charlotte Edwards (capt), Isa Guha, Claire Taylor, Jenny Gunn, Sarah talor (wk), Lauren Griffiths, Nicki Shaw, Anya Srubsole, Ebony Rainford-Brent, Laura Marsh, Beth Morgan, Lydia Greenway, Katherine Brunt, Caroline Atkins, Holly Colvin.

Group fixtures

March 7 - England v Sri Lanka, Manuka Oval
March 10 - England v India, North Sydney Oval
March 12 - England v Pakistan, North Sydney Oval