ODI series promises real competitive edge

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It is not often that the ODIs are a bigger draw than the Tests when England play at home. But that may just be the case after Edgbaston ambled to an inevitable draw on Monday.

It is not often that the ODIs are a bigger draw than the Tests when England play at home. But that may just be the case after Edgbaston ambled to an inevitable draw on Monday ahead of the limited-overs series starting Saturday.

The destination of the Wisden Trophy was never really in doubt from the moment the West Indies arrived, and expectations hardened once we had seen their top three in action.

After two facile home wins at Lord's and Trent Bridge, Denesh Ramdin and Tino Best gave the Birmingham match a welcome twist only for the weather to extinguish any flickering hope among the visitors.

Andrew Strauss again has his hands on the strange paperweight-cum-bookend-cum-mini-war-memorial trophy and we can all move on with our lives.

No-one will be more pleased than Ottis Gibson. The West Indies coach said at the start of the tour that he was focusing mainly on the ODIs in his search for victories over England and now he can focus on that task.

The team news further strengthens his hand. Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Smith and Sunil Narine have all found time for a contest taking little more than a week but Kevin Pietersen has not.

A best-of XI for the two teams in Tests would feature at least nine home players even before Kemar Roach went home; the corresponding LOI XI would be more balanced with very few clear-cut decisions between the sides.

Better still is the format: three ODIs and a single T20I, ideal for any and all international series worthy of the name. The competitive tension missing from the Test series and also from many bloated limited-overs set-ups is retained throughout. It would be pushing our luck to hope for sponsorship from Texaco.

Some question whether the Windies can get together a meaningful team ethic given the off-field churn and short build-up. But Malcolm Marshall said that their best teams were bonded by the need to earn international match fees. If Clive Lloyd's team were around today most would have seen the inside of an IPL dugout at the expense of international caps.

Provided Gibson and Darren Sammy can get some kind commitment from their returning part-timers, most of whom have Ramdin-style points to prove to high-profile critics, the tourists should be able to give a transitional home team a run for their money.

If they don't, it will be difficult for the management to keep insisting that progress is being made.

<b>Peter May</b>

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