As preparations unfolded for the Second Test match, England did not have a prayer. When Alastair Cook, their shining new captain, lost the toss on the first morning, his fleeting look of torment suggested he was not about to bother putting his hands together in supplication.
By the time the match ended 85 minutes into its fourth day the tourists had defeated India by ten wickets. It was comfortably the equal of any of their previous 138 wins away from home, the 139th step indeed.
The return of the prodigal was commemorated a match late, being no less special for it, with a glorious innings of 186. Kevin Pietersen was made man of the match for that but he was by no means alone in the department where heroic deeds are stored.
Cook himself joined Pietersen in scoring a record-equalling 22nd Test century for England (actually he was first there), and it was also his fourth successive hundred in four matches as captain, an unprecedented feat. The bowling was done, by and large, by Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar, who took 19 wickets in the match between them.
Not for 54 years had a pair of English spinners been so dominant in a match, since Jim Laker and Tony Lock, also an off spinner and a slow left armer, shared 19 wickets against New Zealand at Headingley. They had gone one better two years earlier when Laker alone took 19 against Australia at Old Trafford, with Lock getting the other.
The triumph of Swann and Panesar, deserved though it was, was also a triumph of hope over experience. Of the seven times before that they had been selected in the same Test XI, England had never won.
All Test wins on foreign soil are to be cherished for their rarity value alone. England's ratio is 30pc but in the past 25 years that has fallen below 25 per cent. In India they had won 11 times in 52 attempts.
But consider the circumstances in which they came into the 53rd. Not only had they lost the First Test match in Ahmedabad by a thumping nine wickets, they had also exhibited their old uncertainties against spin.
It was their seventh defeat in 12 matches this year in four different countries, the UAE, Sri Lanka, England and now India. The effect of the Pietersen imbrogoli which went to the very heart of the team in the late summer had to be considered.
As far as outsiders knew and despite what the team said, he was still undergoing a process of reintegration. Whatever else it may be, that is a phrase which will haunt the England and Wales Cricket Board forever, much as the name of Sir Allan Stanford. His twin failures in the First Test with scores 17 and six indicated that all was not well, perhaps that he wanted to be reintegrated too much.
This then was the backdrop when Cook strolled out for the toss last Friday morning having pledged that England were improving and could not have worked harder. It was easier to agree with the latter than the former. And then he called the turn of the coin wrongly.
If panic did not sweep through the England dressing room, there was certainly a rush of pity in the ranks of observers. Everyone knew it was a turning pitch, because MS Dhoni, the India captain, had virtually demanded it, and now it was a turning pitch on which England would have to bat fourth, or third if the worst came to the worst and India made a mountain of runs again and forced the follow on.
Such fears for the tourists' immediate future reckoned without the idea that by the time they came to bat fourth the concerns had been rendered obsolete. England needed only 57 to win and Nick Compton, the new boy, joyously creamed 30 of them from 28 balls.
Young Compo will never step from the shadow of his grandfather, Denis, one of the icons of British sport, and he is mature enough to know it. But this was a lovely, unfettered vignette which took England home in dashing style. A touch of Brylcreem on the old Barnet and the image would have been complete.
It was the in-between bit that made England unassailable. They knocked over the India top order on the first morning but then the crucial phase arrived. Only one wicket came in the day's last 50 overs and the balance had shifted to the home side.
It was now that England nailed their courage and their pre-match assessments to the sticking place. They managed to finish India off on the second morning, made a resolute start to their response which would have made the original Compo proud of his grandson, then upped the tempo.
India's spinners did not bowl as well as England's but that is because Pietersen and Cook repelled them. Their partnership of 206 was their 12th together of above 100 but a more telling measure of it is that it was the highest for the third wicket for England in India.
A lead of 82 still seemed too slender. But England had convinced themselves by now that they were a team again, that Pietersen was not only assimilated but one of them once more. The Panesar-Swann duo got to work and bowled quick spin to ensure more response from a helpful surface.
By yesterday morning England needed three more India wickets which they took in 67 balls. It might have been slightly earlier but for another poor decision from Aleem Dar, the prince of umpires, who is having a poor trot and reprieved Pragyan Ojha for a clear bat-pad catch.
But England swashbuckled their way to victory in 58 balls. There really is all to play for now and that would not have been said five days ago.
Timeline: How Cook's men levelled the series in Mumbai
4am GMT India resume
Gautam Gambhir and Harbhajan Singh walk back out with the hosts 31 ahead and three wickets remaining. Gambhir needs a big innings if India are to stage an almighty rescue act.
4:07am Wkt, H'hajan c Trott b Swann 6
India's resistance does not last long, Swann picking up his seventh wicket of the match as Harbhajan is caught. India are 128-8, 42 ahead.
4:19am Wkt, Khan c Prior b Panesar 1
Gambhir's next partner does not last long either. Zaheer Khan skies and Matt Prior takes the catch. Monty's on 11 and England are even closer.
4:25am Failed appeal
The innings should be over after Monty has an appeal turned down after Pragyan Ojha is caught off bat and pad. The umpire misses it. India hang on. They are 131-9, a lead of 45.
4:43am Gambhir lbw b Swann 65
England wrap up the innings – Gambhir dismissed having made almost half of India's 142. England require 57 to win.
4:57am England start well
The visitors are off to a flyer – four byes off the very first ball, Ashwin's delivery running away. Alastair Cook is then lucky to survive a bat-pad appeal.
5:10am Compton finds his groove
With England rattling along, fears of a nervy collapse are far away. Nick Compton is looking ever more confident, smashing Ojha for a straight six.
5:16am Failed appeal
India turn to Harbhajan Singh and Cook survives another appeal after missing with a sweep and being struck on the pad.
5:25am England win by 10 wickets
Ashwin's delivery to Compton goes for four byes and England clinch the victory. The series is level at 1-1 with two Tests to play.
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