Chennai: Andrew Strauss hit an unbeaten 93 as England progressed to 164 for one at tea on the first day after captain Kevin Pietersen earned a major advantage by winning the toss.
For Indians Harbhajan Singh claimed the only wicket to fall in the day"s play when he dismissed Alistair Cook with a well flighted delivery that deceived the England opener
Both captains had stated prior to the match they would bat given the choice on a Chepauk Stadium wicket expected to deteriorate and Pietersen gave the tourists a huge lift by calling correctly at the toss.
England still had to be patient during the early stages, though, as they negotiated new ball spells from Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma which promised little threat.
Strauss took until the ninth over to record England's first boundary, a leg glance to fine leg for four off left-arm seamer Zaheer while Alastair Cook, equally deprived of match practice, took until the 10th over before claiming his first four with an extra cover drive off Sharma.
The pitch offered so little encouragement to India's seamers that captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni turned to the left-arm spin of Harbhajan Singh after just 37 minutes play without providing any greater threat to England's opening stand.
Cook provided a rare false shot shortly before the interval when he edged leg-spinner Amit Mishra wide of slip while Strauss survived a referred appeal to the television umpire when Rahul Dravid claimed a catch at slip off the same bowler.
Strauss survived his scare to reach his half-century first after over two hours at the crease and Cook followed four overs later by cutting Harbhajan for the fifth four of his innings.
Just three overs later, however, Cook's hopes of claiming a Test century ended when he attempted a slog-sweep against Harbhajan, a shot which had proved very successful for both openers during their 118-run stand.
But Cook mis-timed the shot on this occasion and looped the ball high in the air for Zaheer to collect the catch at mid-on for 52 - the 15th time in his Test career he had passed 50 without going on to score a century.