It was hard to make much sense of 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 (five for 45) and Ravichandran Ashwin (three for 80), yet 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 unbroken century stand with debutant Nick Compton.
Wicketkeeper Matt Prior is struggling to make sense of events so far, but is pinning his hopes on the belief that England have learned the errors of their ways.
“We all know our first innings was a bit of a shocker,” said Prior, whose battling 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, obviously, but it gives us a lot of confidence so we can go out tomorrow 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. I think we’re all honest enough to hold our hands up and say ‘Right, we didn’t get that right’. Maybe we got a little bit too ahead of ourselves, and a bit panicky,” Prior said.