It was a day of two halves in which the tourists lurched from 41 for three to 191 all out by teatime to the spin of Pragyan Ojha (5-45) and Ravichandran Ashwin (3-80), then moved serenely to stumps on 111 without loss.
Captain Alastair Cook tried to lead from the front both times, getting as far as 41 first time round and then an unbeaten 74 at the second attempt in an century stand with debutant Nick Compton.
With two days remaining in the first Test, it is tough to work out which England will turn up today.
Wicketkeeper Matt Prior is struggling to make sense of events for far, but is pinning his hopes on the belief that England have learnt the errors of their ways.
"We all know our first innings was a bit of a shocker," said Prior, whose 48 from No 8 was England's best first-innings score.
"As a professional sportsman, you have to look forward - and the way Compo and Cookie went about their business was absolutely fantastic. To end up none down at close of play, we'll take a huge amount from that."
Prior is both a realist and an optimist. "We're still behind in the game ... but it gives us a lot of confidence so we can go out and try to bat for a long period of time - which we need to do," he said.
"I sat here two days before the Test match and said 'It's all very well talking - you've got to go out and do it'. Unfortunately, in the first innings we didn't do it."
Kevin Pietersen was maybe the least convincing, while Ian Bell's first-ball exit was the most embarrassing after he went down the wicket and was caught at mid-off.
"[Pietersen] is one of our main batters," said Prior. "But because he doesn't get runs, we can't all fall apart. He's one player in a team of 11, we all need to hold our hands up."
Bell was anxious to dominate Ojha from the outset, but never gave himself a chance.
"Belly is one of the finest batters at hitting over the top that I know, and the one thing we talk about is playing your own game and backing yourself," added Prior.
"Only Belly will know the plan he had ... and it didn't come off."
Ojha knows he may have to work harder to see off Bell and Pietersen so cheaply next time.
Of the latter, he said: "He has a weakness against left-arm spin. But I won't be taking him easy in this series, because he's a very good batsman."
As for Bell, he added: "I think when you're playing a five-day Test, and a batsman comes at you like that the very first delivery, it's a very encouraging thing as a spinner."
* Press Association
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