The plea was in danger of falling on deaf ears. They listened but they did not necessarily hear. When England were crushed in the opening match of the Test series against India, their coach Andy Flower was disappointed but rational. In a considered discourse he asked three times that judgement should be delivered not then, not in the immediate wake of the nine-wicket drubbing, but at the end of the series. It was an entirely reasonable request which equally could not entirely conceal the suspicion that he was playing for time.
England were fragile against spin yet again in that first Test in Ahmedabad. Worse still, their seamers looked off the pace. Flower genuinely thought matters could improve but was probably working as hard at convincing himself as well as others.
Judgement day arrived in Nagpur yesterday, three matches later. Long before the close of a dull but vastly significant draw, England had turned the series round. They won it 2-1, defeating their opponents by 10 wickets in Mumbai and seven wickets in Kolkata. It was a superb triumph. They outsmarted India at their own game. When it mattered, England's spinners were too slippery for India's batsmen, England's batsmen foiled India's spinners and England's seamers never gave a moment's rest. England won a series in India for the first time since 1984-85 when David Gower's side also had to come from one behind. Flower should be accorded his due because he held his nerve. But this series belonged to Alastair Cook. He recognised that the way to win was to grind India down. He ground and he kept grinding. His sequence of 176, 122 and 190 was interrupted only by his 18 not out to win in Mumbai. Work was still to be done yesterday morning. Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell duly performed it. Having come together at 94 for 3 when it still had potential to become tricky, they took their partnership to 208, England's second highest for the fourth wicket in India. Both scored hundreds. It was Trott's eighth hundred for England and Bell's 17th, his first of 2012.
They played normally in the first hour – nothing reckless, nothing overly defensive. Trott was out for 143 when he glanced a shot to leg slip, Bell might have been caught at slip when he was 75, attempting a cut.
He was there at end, on 116 not out, playing the last ball defensively, when England declared their second innings 356 runs ahead. Joe Root, the debutant, was there with him, having batted in a composed way for the second time in the match. This time there was not the immensity of the first innings when he had to deal with a parlous position of 139 for 5 and he was able to enjoy himself, hitting his first six in Test cricket, something Trott is waiting to do after 38 Tests.
The man of the match award went to Jimmy Anderson. Cook was man of the series for scoring 562 runs. India have problems in batting, bowling and fielding but it was England that made them. The feeling was almost as good as winning in Australia. It was bloody marvellous all over again.