England, by accident if not design, are evolving a new strategic approach to playing Test series abroad. This approach bears some similarities with military warfare.
Alastair Cook's commandos were a united group in India - Kevin Pietersen did not play the lone sniper. England also used some guerrilla tactics to undermine their opponents, moving into position far more swiftly than the home team with all their cumbersome baggage. Thus they spent five whole days in Calcutta before the third Test, India two.
But England's strategy also echoes that of Dracula: they drove a wedge or stake into the heart of Indian cricket. Combine all these ingredients and they form a strategy unique to Test cricket, and especially to a series of proper length, not of two Tests.
To see clearly what this strategy is, it is best to examine the parallels between Cook's tour and England's previous Test series victory in India in 1984-85. There are so many parallels that it cannot be a coincidence:
After losing the first Test on a turning pitch, England were not necessarily more united but India were definitely complacent. The home side gave up on the hard work required during a series and thought they only had to turn up for England to collapse against the Indian spinners again.
A left-handed opening batsman and a more attacking right-handed middle-order stroke player got on top of India's bowling: Graeme Fowler then/Cook now, and Mike Gatting then/Pietersen now.
England's spinners bowled more accurately than India's as the series progressed, giving their captain more control. When a pace bowler chipped in (Neil Foster then/James Anderson now) the balance was irrevocably shifted in England's favour.
After England had levelled the series at 1-1, the veneer of Indian unity began to crack. On both tours one of the main domestic issues was regional resentment of central control. So autonomous are states like Bengal, whether in their political or cricket administration, that a directive from the centre raises hackles. Hence the groundsmen in Calcutta, Madras and Kanpur in 1984-85, and in Calcutta and Nagpur now, seemed to delight in giving England, not India, the pitches that suited them.
As England exerted increasing pressure on the field, then and now, India's captain was first to feel the strain. In 1984-85 Sunil Gavaskar had just replaced Kapil Dev, India's World Cup-winning captain, and the resentments boiled over. This time the press began revealing details of dissensions between MS Dhoni, India's World Cup-winning captain, and senior players (not Sachin Tendulkar). Even more undermining was the revelation that India's selectors had unanimously voted to depose Dhoni as wicketkeeper, though not as captain, but the Indian board had vetoed their decision.
These increasing tensions and dissensions led to ever more listless fielding by India. Thus England's growing psychological superiority was choreographed for all to see.
Ultimately, though, there was one major difference between 1984-85 and Cook's tour. Now there is a philosophical faultline running through Indian cricket, which England's excellence opened up. What is the priority? Test cricket, or 50-over, or the Indian Premier League and the world of Twenty20? England, without question, have prioritised Tests.
It was much the same in Australia two winters ago. Again England brought their weight to bear on two pressure points. One was the captaincy: should Ricky Ponting retire? The majority opinion: yes. And who should take over? Astonishing though it may seem now, the majority opinion then was: anyone but Michael Clarke, because he is a flash git and not one of us, mate.
The second pressure point was the same as India's: the ambivalence in priorities. Two winters ago the Australian board was focused on launching its Twenty20 domestic tournament with all its franchises, the Big Bash, not the Ashes. And, again for commercial reasons, the board made Australia play a series of 50-over internationals less than a fortnight before the Ashes.
England, however, do not have a monopoly on this strategy, and nor is it a recipe for success every time. When they went to the UAE to play Pakistan at the start of this year, they found Pakistan's players, as exiles, were pulling together. This may or may not have been the case if the series had been staged in Pakistan.
And this summer South Africa did exactly the same to England as they did to Australia and India. Firstly, they made England's bowling look impotent when they lost only two wickets in winning the Oval Test by an innings. In Mumbai last month, Cook and Pietersen made India's bowling look impotent on a raging turner. In the Brisbane Test, England made Australia's bowling look impotent by scoring 517 for one, demoralising the home side to the point of scarring.
Having imposed this intolerable weight at the Oval, in the form of centuries by Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis, the South Africans watched the faultlines in English cricket open up. Again the captaincy was one pressure point: the self-doubts ate away at Andrew Strauss. And this time Pietersen texted the disunity of England's dressing room, to make South Africa's job so much easier, as the tourists again drove a wedge into the heart of the hosts.
New Zealand, the next country where England play a Test series, are already in disarray. There has hardly been a finer result in New Zealand's Test history than their overwhelming victory in Sri Lanka last month which squared the series at 1-1. Yet the outcome was the sacking of the victorious captain Ross Taylor. No wonder the former captain Martin Crowe burnt his blazer in protest.
It is possible their wounds will have knitted by the time England play their Test series there in March, although that seems unlikely if the new coach Mike Hesson is still in place. If so, New Zealand might be reunited and all the stronger. But then they too have the same philosophical problem at base: is their priority Test cricket, or do the players go where the big money is and play IPL instead? Either way, England now know the strategy to exploit any doubts and dissensions.