Alastair Cook was attempting to lead from the front as England sought to avoid a Royal London Series whitewash against India at Headingley.
Captain Cook, more than anyone, needs a home win in this fifth and final match to keep at bay the critics who insist he is not the man to take England to the World Cup early next year.
After being put in just as early cloud cover began to disperse, he soon lost the assistance of Alex Hales and then Moeen Ali.
But Cook and Joe Root guided England nonetheless to 75 for two after 15 overs, in an unbroken stand of 36.
Hales' and Moeen's attempts to dominate from the outset came to little.
The opener mistimed an attempted pull high for a simple catch to midwicket off Umesh Yadav, and Moeen - pushed up the order to number three in place of Gary Ballance - carved Bhuvneshwar Kumar straight to third man.
Cook had begun with off-side fours off the back foot from only the third and fifth deliveries he faced in Kumar's first over.
He flirted with the slips too, though, twice in his first 23 runs edging aerially through them for four - while Root soon appeared to be relishing a fine pitch under increasingly sunny skies, hitting five boundaries in his first 22 runs.