England are in that peculiar position where they have achieved so much but are aware it may yet amount to a rickshaw ride to nowhere. Two successive Test victories, as uplifting as almost any of the 329 that preceded them, have left these tourists on the cusp of a momentous series triumph in India.
They have played magnificently in the past fortnight, beating at their own game opponents who have been left beleaguered and barely up for the fray. It was impossible to suggest this three weeks ago when England at the wrong end of a nine-wicket defeat reeled out of Ahmedabad like drunken men, which was a considerable feat in a dry state.
Maybe they would have taken a series draw at the outset, but not now, not after this stimulating revival. They want to complete the job in Nagpur starting on Thursday after their seven-wicket win in the third Test yesterday. Alastair Cook, a captain burgeoning in authority and gravitas, said: "What we have done is taken what we have been doing in the nets out into the middle. We are starting to perform close to our potential and that's why we have won.
"I firmly believed that we were doing the right things, especially in the three weeks before the first Test, the preparation period. These results have proven it but it doesn't stop now. We have got to keep doing this for the next few days. We have got to recover well to go again in Nagpur. It's taken a lot out of us these last five days. There are some very tired bodies in that dressing room."
Cook's body will be more tired than most after his man of the match display. Although he lasted for a mere two minutes yesterday as England made a porridge of chasing 41 runs, he has occupied the crease for nigh on 26 hours in this series, plus around eight longer than that in the field.
Like all of this team he had to readjust after the heavy reversal to Pakistan early in 2012 and the Ahmedabad catastrophe. Sceptics were out in force and picking up followers willy-nilly. England had to admit their faults to rectify them.
"The first thing was the realisation of the problem playing against spin," said Cook. "It probably wasn't as big as everyone made out but all of us as a batting unit had to have a look at our technique and work out a method which suited each individual player. We worked our socks off to improve. It's not going to happen overnight but we're starting to get a few results.
"Before we came here we spoke about batting long periods pretty much. There are not many in world cricket who come to India and dominate bowling the whole day. Kevin Pietersen obviously did it in Mumbai with a great innings but that's not the norm. The norm is you have to accumulate and be prepared to bat the whole day or as long as you can."
And that is what England did, unlike India who left their captain, MS Dhoni, in a state of irritation after the match yesterday. Not that it was noticeable. Nothing seems to anger, annoy or frustrate Dhoni, who continues to hold on to the job despite widespread press criticism.
"We need to score more runs," he said. "Of course the bowlers will bowl good deliveries we need to keep out, but of the top seven most of us need to score at the same time so we get a total the bowlers can defend. But I think the spinners have done a really good job. A bit more contribution from the fast bowlers would really help."
Cook was loath to dwell on his outstanding individual performance which has brought him 548 runs in the series at an average of 109, seen him become the youngest player to score 7,000 Test runs and overtake the long-standing England record of 22 Test centuries. He declined the invitation to anticipate breaking more records. "Cricket has a way of biting you in the arse," he said. India knew how that felt.Reuse content