Centurion Joe Root and canny off-spinner James Tredwell gave England just enough breathing space to close out a nervy 29-run victory in the first match of their post-Pietersen era.
Root's unbeaten 104 underpinned 290 for eight - a total in which Ben Stokes (58) was the other significant contributor - and then Tredwell (three for 39) got to work.
The Vice Chancellor's XI were far from done with, however, as Kyle Corbin's sustained hitting in a 98-ball century kept the hosts just about within range of a shock victory at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium.
Corbin (105) hit nine fours and five sixes in his hundred, but in the end just fell short as England earned some respite at last in what has been an unrelenting winter of discontent to date.
Tredwell needed just one delivery to give them their first breakthrough after Adrian Barath and Chadwick Walton, like England's Alex Hales and Luke Wright before them, shared a half-century opening stand.
After he doubled up with his second victim in his next over, England appeared to be circling for a slow kill.
But Corbin and Devon Thomas made them sweat in a sixth-wicket stand of 103 in under 12 overs before Stuart Broad's team just about managed to get this short tour off to a heartening start.
England appeared set at several stages for a bigger total, after being put in on a pitch which favoured spin throughout.
They had a fine platform at 170 for three in the 30th over thanks to stands of 58 for the first wicket and then 71 for the third between Root and Stokes.
But three wickets for the addition of only 23, two lbw to young leg-spinner Akeem Dewar, halted mid-innings progress.
Wright had appeared marginally the more assured of England's opening pair until he lost a little patience against left-armer Raymon Reifer's line wide outside off-stump and smeared a catch to deep cover.
Then 17-year-old seamer Alzarri Joseph, called in from outside the hosts' initial squad, had Hales mis-pulling for a simple catch almost in the batting crease in his follow-through.
Stokes and Root soon looked in control, however, the former using the cross-wind to hit Dewar for back-to-back leg-side sixes in his first over.
He clubbed another in Dewar's next, just clearing with a pull off the bottom of the bat, to bring up his 50 in 59 balls.
But the left-hander mistimed his next attempted big hit at the returning Miguel Cummins, and was caught at mid-off.
Eoin Morgan's stay was short and fretful before he missed a reverse-sweep against Dewar (three for 67), who switched ends to significant effect and would also deceive Jos Buttler - misreading the leg-spinner's variations and shouldering arms to a ball that appeared to be going on to hit middle and off.
Two of England's most destructive batsmen had gone cheaply, and Root and Ravi Bopara therefore had to chip and scurry their way through a powerplay which yielded 24 runs and the Essex all-rounder's wicket when he poked a low and wide full toss from Reifer straight to cover.
Root's all-Yorkshire stand of 62 with Tim Bresnan was a telling shift of momentum, however, and he completed his 103-ball hundred in the final over with a reverse-flick off Joseph for his ninth boundary.
The home reply began with promise.
Chris Jordan's first two overs cost just four runs, but Walton then went up the wicket to hit him for six over long-off and signal a rush of boundaries.
Broad was economical but wicketless with the new ball, and Stokes and Bresnan also tried their hand before Tredwell proved the golden arm.
His first ball was a long hop, but was deposited into Jordan's hands at long-on as Walton tried to pull it out of the ground.
For good measure, Tredwell and catcher Jordan were soon at it again - in more authentic mode - when number three Paul Palmer edged to slip for a duck.
Jordan was safe again at long-on, Barath just failing to clear, and Broad brought himself back to have Jonathan Carter caught-behind pulling.
But it was not until the captain returned again to bowl Thomas, and then Bresnan had Corbin caught at short third-man, that England could breathe easy.