England came back yesterday. In the intense heat at Wankhede Stadium, which was relentlessly applied by a combination of a temperature which never dipped below 35C, a trio of India spin bowlers scenting blood and a weekend crowd baying for it, their two best batsmen compiled a telling declaration of intent.
Alastair Cook, the captain, and Kevin Pietersen, the returning prodigal, assembled an unbroken partnership for the third wicket of 110. It barely registered on the statistical scale, but for England in the context of this match and series it was riches beyond compare.
The tourists finished the second day of the Second Test on 178 for 2, chugging along at under three an over, trailing by 149. Cook was entrenched at the crease, as he has been since he arrived on this tour as leader of this party (actually, as he has been more or less since his Test career began). Pietersen counterattacked instinctively, unerringly, and on days like this he can be forgiven anything. From both, it was batting of an extremely high calibre.
If their liaison was significant it was also vital to England if they are to gain a foothold in this series. India seemed to have too many for the tourists to handle when they took their first innings to 327 all out.
Monty Panesar took five wickets in an innings for the 11th time in Tests, while Graeme Swann became the 60th bowler and the 16th for England to take 200 Test wickets when he had Harbhajan Singh lbw stepping across his stumps. He also became the first man in the series to dismiss Cheteshwar Pujara after all but 17 hours at the crease, stumped for 135 here.
If there were such things these days, the newspapers would have published special editions with bills dotted round town saying: Latest News – Pujara Out. But it was sure as anything trending on the social networks. England began circumspectly, but there was nothing wrong in that. At first it felt as if Cook and Nick Compton might be out at any moment, as much what India wanted them to feel as the way they were batting.
There were actually few alarms either in the 12 minutes before lunch or in most of the middle session. But just before tea Compton, who had once more been painstaking if never quite at home, got a ball from Pragyan Ojha which spun away and which he edged low to slip.
In Ojha's next over, Jonathan Trott stayed on his crease and missed a straight one. It was a horrible time for Trott to come in. It was his second duck of the series.
Another wicket then and it was possible to see India running through England before the day was out. But Pietersen announced himself with a beautiful four through extra cover off his first ball. It seemed to act as a palliative for him. Gone were the jitters of the First Test. Six of his first nine scoring shots were fours, all punched or threaded with certainty. He took the attack to Harbhajan, returning to Test cricket after 18 months, and when Ojha put seven men on the offside, including two covers, a wide mid-off, a conventional cover and a backward point, Pietersen effortlessly squeezed three through the lot of them.
You want to play in the Indian Premier League, sir? No problem. You wish for special treatment? Certainly. You want more time off with your family? Just say when. It was a special innings but it could not have been done, as Pietersen will appreciate, without Cook.
The cares of leadership have done nothing to blunt Cook's hunger for batting, and at the close, by which time he was 13 runs short of his 22nd century, he was virtually matching Pujara in this series, having occupied the crease for exactly 16 hours.
Of course there was a contrast in styles, but this pair like batting together. This was the 11th time they had assembled a century stand for England's third wicket. They were not quite flawless, but on this type of surface with turn and bounce, that would have been asking too much.
Both had edges which fell short of the slip cordon, both got into an occasional tangle, Cook surviving a close lbw shout late in the day. But they ensured that the mystery, if there were any to start with, was taken out of India's spinners. Ravichandran Ashwin, he of the new carrom ball, bowled 22 wicketless overs. Ojha, the a left-armer of the type who have so often accounted for Pietersen, was dealt with firmly. By the end of the day, the names of Wally Hammond, Colin Cowdrey and Geoff Boycott were being invoked again.
For more than 30 years those men have stood atop the England century-makers' chart with 22 each, virtually unbothered by all their successors. Both Cook and Pietersen went into this match on 21 apiece, and on yesterday's exhibition alone deserve to make the trio a quintet.
India won toss
India: First innings Overnight: 266-6 (C A Pujara 114no, R Ashwin 60no; M S Panesar 4-91).
C A Pujara st Prior b Swann 135/0/12/350
R Ashwin lbw b Panesar 68/0/9/114
Harbhajan Singh lbw b Swann 21/1/2/35
Z Khan c Bairstow b Swann 11/1/1/11
P P Ojha not out 0/0/0/4
Extras (lb1, nb1) 2
Total (115.1 overs) 327
Fall 1-4, 2-52, 3-60, 4-118, 5-119, 6-169, 7-280, 8-315, 9-316.
Bowling J M Anderson 18-3-61-1; S C J Broad 12-1-60-0; M S Panesar 47-12-129-5; G P Swann 34.1-7-70-4; S R Patel 4-1-6-0.
England: First innings
*A N Cook not out 87/1/10/209
N R D Compton c Sehwag b Ojha 29/0/4/90
I J L Trott lbw b Ojha 0/0/0/6
K P Pietersen not out 62/0/9/85
Total (for 2, 65 overs) 178
Fall 1-66, 2-68.
To bat J M Bairstow, S R Patel, †M J Prior, S C J Broad, G P Swann, J M Anderson, M S Panesar.
Bowling R Ashwin 22-5-54-0; P P Ojha 21-3-65-2; Z Khan 8-4-12-0; Harbhajan Singh 14-0-47-0.
Umpires Aleem Dar (Pak) and A L Hill (NZ).
TV Umpire S Ravi (Ind).
Match referee R S Mahanama (S Lanka).
Why we can't use live pictures
We apologise to all cricket fans as we are unable to print live pictures from yesterday's play. This paper, along with other British media groups, is not publishing any live pictures from the Second Test in protest at the Indian Cricket Board's refusal to grant access to certain major picture agencies, which we view as a restriction on the freedom of the press.