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England on the brink in Nagpur

Jonathan Trott's second Test century of the year and Ian Bell's second 50 in India has put England on the brink of a famous series victory.

Trott (106no) and Bell (61no) took their stand to 146 in a lunchtime total of 240 for three, and lead of 244, as India's faint hopes of a last-ditch chase to salvage a 2-2 scoreline receded to almost nil on the final day in Nagpur.

It is almost 28 years since England last won a Test series here, under David Gower and when current captain Alastair Cook was a babe in arms only weeks old.

Cook has been one of the foundations of their success so far, with centuries in his first three Tests after replacing Andrew Strauss as permanent captain.

Today, it was time for Trott and Bell to keep England on track for an achievement which will be all the more notable after their crushing nine-wicket defeat in the first Test in Ahmedabad.

Cook, Kevin Pietersen and spinners Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann began the comeback in Mumbai; then the captain was at it again in Kolkata last week, when Steven Finn and in particular James Anderson's mastery of reverse-swing completed England's skills set.

It was appropriate that Trott and Bell should be involved in the home straight, though, after their relative troubles in a year which has seen England lose seven of 15 Tests as well as their position at the top of the International Cricket Council rankings.

By the two middle-order men's previously prolific standards, 2012 has been tough.

But after Trott's ducks in Ahmedabad and Mumbai, he contributed significantly at Eden Gardens and here - completing the process with a typically cussed near five-hour hundred which took him close to 1,000 runs after all in the past 12 months.

England's number three reached three figures with a trademark boundary wide of mid-on off leg-spinner Piyush Chawla, and celebrated with feeling amid Indian faces resigned to a first home series defeat in eight years.

Bell, by his own admission, has not done himself justice in three Test tours to this country but made no mistake this time in a fine supporting role on his way to and beyond a 130-ball half-century.

There was barely a moment's anxiety as he and Trott continued yesterday's good work, having joined forces at a wobbly 94 for three when Pietersen was bowled shouldering arms at Ravindra Jadeja last night.

Trott's only alarm came shortly before lunch when he missed a Chawla top-spinner and was hit on the back pad, but umpire Rod Tucker turned down the lbw appeal - ensuring a wicketless session.

Cook's team arrived here needing only a draw, but the captain was at pains beforehand to spell out the danger of settling for limited ambition with stakes so high.

In the event, conditions dictated that a stalemate would have to do on a mesmerisingly slow pitch which precluded a scoring rate much in excess of two-an-over.

Despite its crazy-paving cracks from the outset, the VCA Stadium surface never deteriorated either.

Unwatered and unrolled for almost three weeks before the match, the intention seemed to be to provide a 'result' pitch in the hope India's four spinners could outbowl England's two.

If those were the expectations, it was soon abundantly clear the hosts were barking up the wrong tree.

Solitary seamer Ishant Sharma was by far the pick of their attack in the first innings, when low bounce from his high trajectory posed the biggest threat to England.

But after the tourists recovered from 16 for two to top 300, it was hard to see India getting far enough in front quickly enough to apply the pressure.

So it proved as, even after a near double-century fifth-wicket stand between Virat Kohli and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, they ended up declaring with a marginal deficit.

England knew then they merely needed to bat for at least the next three-and-a-half sessions to be confident of closing out the draw and claiming their prize of series victory.

Thanks to Trott and Bell's redoubled efforts this morning, the job was all but done.