Alastair Cook shrugged off jet-lag to hit a debut half-century but some lethargic shots from his new colleagues left England under par as the curtain opened on the Test series in India.
Essex opener Cook struck a cultured 60, only hours after arriving on the sub-continent, as England closed on 246 for seven at the VCA ground in Andrew Flintoff's first day in charge.
The 21-year-old spent two days travelling, having been summoned from England A commitments in the Carib-bean, and has had to come to terms with a huge shift in time zones.
Cook displayed the virtue of patience on a slow surface as rashness from others cost dear. Only Paul Collingwood, unbeaten on 53 at the close, and Flintoff, matching Cook's application.
"I am still waking up for a couple of hours in the night but once out there the adrenaline got going and you are playing for England so you can't be tired," Cook - making his Test bow along with spinners Ian Blackwell and Monty Panesar - reflected.
"If you had said a week ago this would happen I would have probably laughed. But sometimes opportunities come up and you have to take them.
"It has been a bit weird but not being able to think for long about it is almost the best way.
"'Freddie' [Flintoff] was really encouraging this morning, especially to us three who are making our debuts," Cook said. "He said as long as we played as a team and showed the guts, determination and fight - which you should show when you are up against it - and the pride of playing for England we should do well."
Neither Cook nor Colling-wood would have played here but for the calamitous chain of events prior to this match, which culminated in captain Michael Vaughan and his deputy Marcus Trescothick returning home.
Both batsmen took a long look at spinners Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble before offering any attacking intentions, a policy Cook set upon having never faced the former before.
Cook, who struck seven crisp boundaries in all and clipped anything off the pads in emphatic manner, eventually succumbed in the fourth hour of play when left-armer Irfan Pathan swung a delivery back sharply from outside off-stump through the gate via an inside edge.
The tourists would have done better but for some injudicious strokes either side of lunch. Cook's opening partner Andrew Strauss provided early momentum with a handful of boundaries against the new ball but was lured into a loose drive at a wide one which gave Indian debutant Sri Sreesanth a maiden Test wicket after a smart catch by VVS Laxman at second slip.
Kevin Pietersen failed to take advantage of Laxman's aberration in the same position off Sreesanth when he perished in the same over via an overly aggressive front-foot pull which he chopped on to his leg stump.
India attacked on two fronts: Harbhajan, who turned several in and then drifted one away from Ian Bell to induce an edge to slip, and Kumble, the snarer of Flintoff, probing away on a parched pitch already showing signs of cracking up, while Pathan and Sreesanth exploited the reverse swing on offer.
"In India we get a lot of wickets with reverse swing, we stuck to one plan and thankfully it worked," said Sreesanth.
It began as early as the 16th over of the innings, in fact, as the dry playing surface accelerated the deterioration of the ball.
Scuffing at that kind of rate may be good news for England, although they struggled for reverse swing with the SG balls during the two warm-up matches.
India's decision to field only a four-man bowling unit almost backfired when Sreesanth was warned twice for running on to the danger area of the pitch. Three indiscretions results in immediate removal and a ban for the rest of the innings.
"It does happen and it has happened to me before in a first-class match," said
Sreesanth. "It did worry me but I remained confident I wouldn't do it again."
Despite his poor form going into this contest, there were signs after tea of the Flintoff so dominant in last summer's Ashes.
Two classical strokes for four in one Sreesanth over, a straight drive followed by a thunderous pull, upped the tempo and when he guided another boundary to third man via a thick edge off the same bowler minutes later, he had surpassed the 26-run total he compiled in the entire series when England were last here four years ago.
He was, perhaps, unfortu-nate to be adjudged leg-before. Though his flick across the line was imperfect, the ball appeared to be drifting down the leg side.
Geraint Jones was beaten by a beauty that swung back before Blackwell failed to adjust to the slow pace of the pitch and played on as he drove at a wide delivery.
Collingwood, however, stood firm. He brought up his third Test half-century by smashing a full toss from Kumble through mid-wicket and using his feet next ball to clear the rope in a similar area.
More of the same may be necessary if England are to get anywhere within the vicinity of the score they would have wished when Flintoff won the toss. ..SUPL: