The end may not have come as glitteringly as they would have liked, but there was no escaping the scarcely believable truth: having outplayed India at a venue where they had not lost for nearly 14 years, England stand on the brink of one of the most famous series wins in their history.
If you had offered Alastair Cook a 2-1 lead after the disappointment of Ahmedabad, the chances are he would have taken you into the corner and given you a stern talking-to.
India have not lost successive Tests at home since early 2000, when South Africa won in Mumbai and Bangalore. For Cook, in his first series as permanent Test captain, it is heady stuff.
On the brink: England became the first side to beat India at Eden Gardens for over 13 years
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His second stumping in Test cricket, and the two quick wickets that followed, may have taken just a fraction of the gloss off England’s win, but the captain could be forgiven.
Without his second-innings rearguard in the first Test, his team might not have developed the self-belief necessary to have a crack in the second.
Without his rock-solid century in Mumbai, Kevin Pietersen might not have batted with the licence he did, battering Indian aspiration on a heady Saturday afternoon at the Wankhede.
And without Cook’s 190 here at Eden Gardens, India might not have been ground into the dust, a precursor to their inexplicable post-lunch collapse yesterday.
Cook has lost all three tosses, but made good his dodgy calling twice. Really, it is one of the great examples of leadership-from-the-front, even if he might have set more aggressive fields while England sought to take India’s final two wickets last night.
Man of the match: Cook clocked up his third century of the series
But while there is scope for improvement, Cook generally handled his bowlers superbly well in a Test which exposed the cracks in the Indian edifice. The front page of Times of India this morning picked a team for Nagpur that included only five of the men who lost here. It was like England in the 1980s.
England, mercifully, will now look only forward. Through a combination of injury and error, they did not alight on their best attack until this game. Their fans will think it was worth the wait, although the curiosity was that the usual roles were reversed: a spinner, Monty Panesar, was leading wicket-taker in the first innings, while the Jimmy Anderson and Steven Finn – both finding reverse-swing, both outstanding – shared six in the second.
Other pieces fell into place, too. Nick Compton looks increasingly at home, Jonathan Trott made his first score of the series, and even Ian Bell – a peripheral figure until now – insured against a calamity this morning with a run-a-ball 28 not out.
You’ve got to hand it to them. They rightly had their wrists slapped after the first innings in Ahmedabad, when their protestations about improving against spin just sounded like hot air. But they have responded with a resolve that, for much of a traumatic year, appeared beyond them.
This series isn’t over yet: India can still salvage a draw at Nagpur, where the pitch may not be designed to last five days. But they have answered some serious questions. Now for one more.