There's surely no way back into the series for India now. At Lord's and Trent Bridge, they held the upper hand for sessions at a time, only for England's force majeure to snatch the ascendancy from their grasp. Today at Edgbaston, on the other hand, they were not allowed even to pretend they had control, as two grievous blows at either end of the morning session condemned their batsman to their fifth consecutive sub-300 total. They now face the prospect of a long stint in the field against an opposition who have the No. 1 ranking in their grasp, and show no signs whatsoever of relinquishing it.
If Virender Sehwag's first-ball dismissal was the sort of accident that can happen to opening batsmen, particularly those returning from a three-month lay-off, then Rahul Dravid's detonation, right on the stroke of lunch, was a different entity entirely. Tim Bresnan is not the sort of chap with whom you'd normally associate such flashes of inspiration, but when he pegged back Dravid's off stump with a ball he's only ever bettered "in the nets", he confirmed the old truism that practice makes perfect.
"Like my old coach Steve Oldham used to say, 'top of off kid, and just land it on the seam'," said Bresnan. "It does work, because if you just hang in them areas long enough, you're going to get balls to just go like that."
In keeping with their current reputation, England's bowlers were relentless in their pursuit of breakthroughs, even on a wicket that proved to be a lot less responsive than might have been expected with a healthy grass covering and a heavy cloud cover. "It swung a bit, but not like Trent Bridge," said Bresnan. "We expected it to be a bit quicker and maybe seam a little bit more than it actually did, but as a seamer you look at the wicket and think 'yeah, I'd prefer to bowl on that now rather than later when it's flattened out'."
Chris Tremlett's ongoing back problems spared the selectors an awkward decision in the build-up to this Test, but even if he'd been fit, it's doubtful whether he'd have done a better job than Bresnan - a bowler who is now forging a reputation as England's slow wicket specialist. From the featherbeds of Bangladesh via a pudding at the MCG, he's showcased the stamina and discipline to harry his opponents into errors, as well the flashes of brilliance that ensure no-one dare to take him for any liberties. It was a loose drive from Gautam Gambhir that set India's collapse in motion, but as with the Dravid jaffa, that very moment was the product first and foremost of tenacity.
That tenacity extends to the whole of England's seam attack, for there is no weak link at present. James Anderson topped and tailed the innings to deny Bresnan and Broad a shot at their fifth wicket of the day, but given that he came into the contest as a reserve, Bresnan could hardly feel short-changed by a tally of nine wickets in two innings. "It is nice that the wickets were shared around a bit," he said. "It has definitely got the hunting-in-the-pack mentality to it. We do enjoy each other's success, which is great for going forward with team spirit."
India's coach, Duncan Fletcher, can only look on ruefully. In his seven years with England, Fletcher became accustomed to dominance on English soil, with the Ashes defeat of 2001 his only series loss in this country. Right now, however, he's more or less resigned to another dent in that record, for today's events had the same sort of one-sided feel as that rubber. Australia's spearheads on that trip were Glenn McGrath and Jason Gillespie, two men whose methods also centred around constriction.
"They are bowling well as a unit, they have good back-up, and they've been effective as we can see from the way they have performed," said Fletcher. "They are a good combination, they hunt in a pack well, which is very, very important, and they've got a good intensity. And they've really been helped by the conditions, by the way it has swung and seamed."
Fletcher's last point is debatable, however, for this was not a wicket that screeched with demons. It did not zip round corners to anything like the extent witnessed on the first morning at Trent Bridge, which meant that the parallels between England's recovery from 124 for 8 on that occasion and India's recovery from 111 for 7 weren't entirely applicable. Whereas England's collapse had been dramatic but understandable, India's really should not have happened in the first place.
"We are not naive enough to think that there was not going to be a partnership," said Bresnan of the stand between MS Dhoni and Praveen Kumar that spared a few of India's blushes. "It doesn't happen every time, that you blitz out their tail. Just because it happened twice at Trent Bridge is not to say the tail won't wag a little bit. From experience as the ball gets little older and softer, the wicket starts to do a little bit less, so you can't really rough them up, and it does get a little bit easier to bat."
That point was amply demonstrated in the final session, as Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss reminded India's batsmen what it takes to tough it out in Test cricket. Both men have been in ropey form this series, but each found a tempo to suit their personal circumstances, with Cook concentrating on rediscovering that judgment outside off stump that had driven the Aussies to distraction, and Strauss taking a more aggressive approach to batter ten boundaries in his first home half-century since the corresponding Test last summer.
"It was a great day of Test cricket for us," said Bresnan. "To stick 'em in, bowl 'em out, and be 80 for 0, we'd take that at the start of play. I know that sounds like a massive cliché but it's definitely true."