Alastair Cook played the sheet anchor's role to perfection, while Jonathan Trott (87) and Kevin Pietersen (54) excelled in supporting roles. Thanks to the collaboration of these three top order batsmen, England dominated Day 3 of the third Test at the Eden Gardens on Friday.
At close of play, the visitors were 509 for 6 in their first essay, a lead of 193 runs.
Matt Prior was unbeaten on 40 in the company was Graeme Swann, on 21, as the visitors attempted to bat the hosts out of the game.
Poor bowling, coupled by an even more pathetic effort on the field, ensured the home team's woes increased manifold even as England tightened its stranglehold on the game.
India did well to recover ground, first late in the second session (with two wickets) and then in third (with another three). But, by then, considerable damage was inflicted on them, largely due to a monumental effort by the rival captain.
Cook's innings was masterclass, something he has become synonymous with in this series, having scored 547 runs thus far and broken many records en route.
His 190 was the second-highest score by a visiting batsman at the Eden Gardens, after Rohan Kanhai's 256 in 1958. The West Indies had then inflicted a humiliating innings and 336 runs on the hosts.
With the pitch expected to deteriorate drastically from session two onwards on the fourth day, the home team has a herculean task ahead.
Morning session (80 runs, 32 overs, no wickets):
An exquisite boundary by Cook (off Ashwin) -- caressed through cover -- made clear English intentions on the morning.
The shot also helped raise the highest second wicket partnership for England at Eden, besting Graham Gooch and Christopher Tavare's effort of 64 set back in January 1982.
Cook continued with his usual flair but it was a surprise to witness Trott get back some of his.
The new ball was taken in the 89th over and Zaheer was expectedly handed it. A boundary off the fourth ball of his over, his 21st, helped the England captain complete 150 runs. It was the 27-year-old's seventh 150-plus score in Tests.
The shot also helped the visitors get past the 250-run mark.
Shortly after, successive boundaries off Zaheer, helped Trott complete his 13th Test fifty. It was his second fifty against India and also only his second in his last 15 Test innings -- following his 63 in the second innings against South Africa at Lord's in August.
The second of those boundaries, whipped past the long leg, also raised the 100-run partnership for the second wicket.
The Indian bowling was poor, but their fielding was pathetic.
Cook, having been let off by Cheteshwar Pujara (off Zaheer) when he had scored only 17, got the second reprieve of his innings (when on 156) when Ishant Sharma failed to take a simple catch on his follow through.
The bowler created an opportunity, only to let it go.
And that summed up the story for India in the innings: few opportunities created and all wasted.
At lunch, the visitors were 296 for 1 (after 105 0vers).
Post-lunch session (85 runs, 30 overs, two wickets):
Cook and Trott carried forward in familiar vein after resumption. A boundary behind square, off Ashwin, in the eighth over after resumption (113th overall), helped the visitors take the lead. Besides, it also helped raise the 150-run partnership for the second wicket.
It was only the third time that England had had two 150-plus stands for the first two wickets against India, the earlier instances being at Edgbaston (in 1974) and Chennai (then Madras in 1985) and the fourth time overall in their history -- the other occasion being against Australia, at the Gabba (Brisbane) in 2010.
Ojha finally provided India the breakthrough they so desperately sought, having Trott caught behind, the ball turning considerably and taking a thick edge off the batsman's blade.
The left-arm spinner had taken the lone England wicket to fall on the second day as well and bolstered his total to 16 wickets in the series.
The home team got a wicket at last, after toiling for 47 overs in the day.
Trott's 223-ball knock was inclusive of 10 boundaries; he and his captain put on 173 runs for the second wicket.
Soon after, Cook's stellar innings came to an end as well -- an unfortunate one at that. While trying to make his way back to the non-striker's end, Cook inexplicably tried to get out of the way of the ball before he had got back to the crease.
Virat Kohli's throw was spot on.
England's captain fell just 10 runs short of what would have a deserving double hundred. His 377-ball knock was inclusive of 23 hits to the fence and two over it.
Pietersen and Bell ensured there was no further damage before tea.
Post-tea session (128 runs, 28 overs, three wickets):
Pietersen ensured an empathic start to the day's final session, striking three straight boundaries off the first three balls from Ojha, besides surviving a loud appeal off the fifth ball.
However, it did not take long for India to strike, Ishant having Bell (5) caught behind.
A few overs later, Pietersen completed his half century with a single off Zaheer. It was his 28th career fifty, his fifth against India.
The run also helped England take the lead past the 100-run mark. The batsman didn't last long, though.
Ashwin had KP out leg before after he mistimed his sweep.
Pietersen's 85-ball knock was inclusive of nine boundaries and a six.
Samit Patel scored a quickfire 33 before Ojha has him caught by Sehwag at backward point.
Prior and Swann, though, helped the visiting team consolidate its advantage further with a 56-run stand for the seventh wicket.
The final session of the third day was the most prolific for England, and probably the final nail in India's coffin.