After a historic win at the Lord's, India would not have thought of being in such a precarious situation on the fifth and final day of the third Test in Southampton. Surprisingly, on a greenish Lord's pitch Indian batsmen showed great application but at Ageas Bowl track best-suited for batting they are struggling.
While England made a great comeback and what is believed the pitch was tailored-made for their out of form batsmen to get some runs under their belt. Alastair Cook scored 95 after getting a reprieve earlier in his innings, Ian Bell and Gary Ballance raked up big centuries to guide England to a first innings total of 567 for 7 declared.
India coming out for the reply saw their top order flounder except for the half-centuries by Ajinkya Rahane and MS Dhoni as the visitors failed to avoid the follow-on to get all out for 330 trailing by 239 runs.
The trend of enforcing the follow-on is now thing of the past as England came out to bat and scored quickly intending to have a go at the Indian batsmen before stumps on day four.
Cook played a captain knock by scoring an unbeaten 114-ball 70 and Joe Root scored a 41-ball 56 as England declared their second innings at 205 for 4 setting 445-run target for India.
However, India would have liked to see off the remaining overs of the day without losing a wicket. But England bowlers led by James Anderson were spot on with their line and length and both the Indian openers started well until that freak run out of Murali Vijay (12) happened.
Then India lost Cheteshwar Pujara (2), Shikhar Dhawan (37) and Virat Kohli (28) in quick succession. At stumps, the last proper batting pair Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma were at the crease with India needing 333 more runs for a win.
Now the pressure will be on India to bat through the three sessions of the final day to save the Test match. The task looks gargantuan but not impossible on a batting track. Rahane and Rohit have to come out with a positive frame of mind and look for scoring runs than having an approach only to play defending shots. If both these batsmen manage to play a marathon innings, India stand an outside chance of saving the Southampton Test.
India having England on the mat after the second Test can't afford to release the pressure so easily. If India manage to pull off a draw they will still have the edge in the five-match series or else after the win England will be a changed and confident team.