England are in an unusual position: only once since 1996 have they gone into the final Test of the summer needing to win to square the series. That was in 2003, when they made three changes for the last Test at South Africa, and inevitably there have been calls for new blood after today's defeat by India. So what are the main areas of consideration ahead of next week's Oval Test?
Until the tour to Australia last winter, Andrew Strauss had a phenomenal record of 10 hundreds in just 31 Tests, averaging 46; in his last 11 Tests, he has failed to score a century while averaging just 28. He may have ground out half-centuries in his last three Tests, but there are still worries about his static feet - and he was dismissed through an aberrant swipe at Trent Bridge, perhaps betraying his mental state. His opening partner Alastair Cook has been dismissed LBW four times this series, playing across the line on each occasion, but has shown such promise that his place is not under any threat.
If England decide to dispense with Strauss, which remains unlikely, they have two options; they can either pick a specialist opener, or move Michael Vaughan up to open (a job he has done just once since the West Indies tour of 2003-04) and rejig the batting order. If they opt for the former, the most likely candidate is Kent's Joe Denly, who, at 21, already averages 54 in first-class cricket. He has played two innings of particular note this campaign: an outstanding 115 not out (out of only 199) against a Hampshire side featuring Shane Warne, Stuart Clark and Chris Tremlett; and an exhilarating, 90-ball 83 against the Indians for England Lions.
Middle order batsmen
With some impressive performances since his recall against Pakistan last year, Ian Bell looked to be establishing himself as one of England's untouchables. However he has failed four times this series, while England's selectors may also note that he averages just 19 after five Tests against India, and murmurings about his inability to perform under pressure remain. The words that dare not speak their name - flat-track bully - are becoming increasingly voluble - Paul Collingwood's tenacious 63 in the last Test, meanwhile, will ensure he remains in the side for the Oval.
Owais Shah played in the first Test of the summer and, especially after his fine one-day showings, is probably the next cab on the middle-order rank. Memories of his superb 88 on Test debut in Mumbai remain; and, at 28, Shah's time should be now. Of the other candidates, Ravi Bopara is averaging 65 in the championship, and his wristy batting and steely temperament caught the eye in the World Cup. It may seem fanciful but, with this being a must-win Test that exists in isolation, it would be wrong to discount the technically proficient Mark Ramprakash, who is once more leading the first-class averages and, nearing 38, is a more mellow character than during his Test career.
Matt Prior is sure to keep his place for the final Test but, considering his decidedly iffy wicket-keeping and the fact his runs have only come against West Indies - whose bowling attack would be amongst the worst in Division Two - his long-term position is by no means secure. As shown by his selection for England Lions, Tim Ambrose, a markedly better keeper than Prior and outstanding with the bat this season, leads the chasing pack, although he has not reached fifty in his past five first-class knocks. There are a multitude of other potential candidates, led by the unlucky James Foster, who, at 27, should be entering his prime.
Chris Tremlett, who has taken 10 wickets in two Tests, is surely assured of a place. Ryan Sidebottom has bowled well in both matches against India; and Jimmy Anderson was excellent at Lord's, but disappointingly wayward at Trent Bridge. However, with Monty Panesar completing the bowling quartet, the England selectors will no doubt be aware of the need to extract more runs from the tail.
This could aid the case of Stuart Broad, omitted at the last for the first Test. He has scored half-centuries in consecutive seasons against the tourists to give evidence he could be an England No8, while he also claimed five wickets against India for England Lions. Though almost as tall as Tremlett, he generates less bounce, but has good pace, gets movement off the seam, offers aggression and has a temperament well suited to the international game. The recovery of Matthew Hoggard is still in its infancy - he is not yet back at Yorkshire - and it would smack of desperation were he to be selected, especially as he averages 40 at the Oval. The same, of course, could be said of a recall for Andy Caddick, although he has 56 first-class wickets this season and an excellent record at the Oval.