India's bowlers let England off the hook and allowed the visitors to recover from a difficult position and post 199 for 5 by stumps, on the opening day, to leave the crucial fourth and final cricket Test in Nagpur evenly poised, on Thursday.
The home team had England in a real spot at 139 for 5 soon after tea, but failed to seize the initiative as debutant Joe Root and the experienced Matt Prior batted for nearly 30 overs to add 60 runs for the unbroken sixth-wicket stand.
The new-look Indian bowling attack had kept the high-flying England batsmen under a tight leash, making them struggle for every run in the first two sessions before Prior, batting on 34, and Root, undefeated on 31, added valuable runs in the final hour.
Kevin Pietersen was England's top-scorer, with 73, while debutant Ravindra Jadeja got two wickets for 34 runs from 25 overs.
England captain Alastair Cook won the toss for the first time in the series and the visitors were rocked by twin strikes within the first hour by Ishant Sharma, but recovered briefly to get past the 100-run mark.
However, they got bogged down by the loss of three more wickets -- two of which were claimed by 24-year-old debutant Jadeja, and the other by comeback man Piyush Chawla, before staging their second recovery of the day through Root and Prior.
The sixth-wicket pair, whose unfinished partnership has lasted five minutes under two hours, came together when Kevin Pietersen was dismissed by Jadeja as he tried to play towards mid-wicket and Pragyan Ojha took a low catch, diving forward.
By close of play on the first day, the sixth-wicket pair had ensured England ended the day on even keel.
England scored 61, 72 and 66 runs in the three sessions.
In the morning, Sharma packed off Cook, England's leading run-getter, and his opening partner Nick Compton cheaply, leaving them gasping at 16 for 2 before Pietersen and Jonathan Trott staged a recovery.
Compton nicked a slow, rising delivery from Ishant to skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni behind the stumps and England were reduced to three for one.
It soon became 16 for two when the in-form Cook got a dubious decision from umpire Kumar Dharmasena as Ishant's angling delivery looked like missing the off-stump.
Pietersen and Trott added 86 runs for the third wicket. The former faced 188 deliveries en route to 73, hitting 10 boundaries in the process. Trott played 133 balls for his 44, which had seven fours.
Trott was dismissed when he shouldered an arm ball from Jadeja trying to play for the away spin.
But the fall of Trott, Ian Bell and Pietersen, who was dismissed by Jadeja with his innocuous looking left-arm spin, made England adopt ultra-defensive tactics on the low and slow wicket till stumps.
For India, the infusion of fresh blood into the squad in the form of Jadeja, who made his debut, and leggie Chawla, playing only his third Test and his first in more than four years, appeared to have clicked.
The two youngsters picked important wickets after the early twin strike by Sharma, who was easily the pick of all the bowlers.
While Ishant had best figures of two for 32, Jadeja and Chawla, who got one for 39 from his 13 overs, also did a commendable job.
The first-choice spinners Pragyan Ojha and Ravichandran Ashwin went wicketless on a strip that afforded a bit of slow turn which negated strokeplay.
England crawled their way right through the day against the tight field setting and kept a rate of just above two runs per over for the better part of the day.