London, July 25: After frittering away a definite advantage on Day 4 of the Lord's Test, India are up against the herculean task of forcing a draw. Both teams would have liked to register a win to mark this, the momentous occasion of playing their 100th Test against each other. But only England is left in the hunt for such an outcome. 9 wickets from 98 overs - that's what they need, while India will attempt to keep the opposition's bowlers at bay through the day.
As long as the Wall Rahul Dravid and a solid VVS Laxman inhabit the crease, India can rest assured that they are in safe hands. After all, with both batsmen going past individual contributions of 30-plus and surviving a tense closing session yesterday, they are adequately revved up to face the barrage of fast balls that the English pacemen are winding up for.
India is not unaccustomed to the predicament of batting out several sessions of play. Back in 2007 against New Zealand, Gautam Gambhir led India through a follow-on with a century to draw the match. Why, only this Jan in the Rainbow Nation, India fended off a ferocious South African pace attack in the third Test and that too up against a target of 300-plus.
If either Dravid or Laxman should perish in India's quest for a draw, the mantle will fall on Suresh Raina. The middle-order batsman has been blowing hot and cold over the last few months, but should transform the momentum he gained on the Caribbean tour last month into a long innings for India now. The latter-middle order, especially M S Dhoni and Harbhajan Singh should show their mettle when and if their opportunity comes. For the matter, Ishant Sharma and Praveen Kumar too have proved to be stubborn batters in the past.
With the quality of the Lord's pitch wilting, India's task will ball the harder. But they shouldn't be drawn into shabby drives and ambitious hooks and pulls. Indeed, this is the ultimate test of patience and temperament. Will India prevail or perish?