England's bid to save the first Test against India enjoyed a defiant boost thanks to centurion Alastair Cook and sidekick Matt Prior's unbeaten 141-run stand on day four in Ahmedabad on Sunday.

Cook, unbeaten on 168 not out, became the only player to score a century in his first three Test as captain after his previous success against Bangladesh two years ago.

The determined left-hander, with Prior along for a successful ride, remained determined throughout the day despite the quintet of wickets around him. Resuming on 111 without loss, England soon slipped to 199 for five as seamers Umesh Yadav, Zaheer Khan and Pragyan Ojha resumed India's dominance.

All the misguided recipients of low scores in England's lowly first innings of 191 all out, prior their follow-on, Nick Compton, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell and Samit Patel failed to make their second chances count.

Three lbw decisions, the third the most questionable, and spinner Pragyan Ojha's sharp turn accounted for the lot. While Patel was left to rue a first-ball duck in the wake of a shaky choice from umpire Tony Hill, who gave the all-rounder out despite evidence of an inside edge, Pietersen cut an embarrassed figure after he was bowled around his legs.

Unperturbed by the daunting task at hand, Cook only needed a resilient partner to commence an unlikely fightback - and Prior duly obliged in characteristically gutsy fashion.

The pair's alliance was near flawless, and entirely stifled Ravichandran Ashwin's fledgling status as England's nemesis in-chief. The spinner ended the day with figures of none for 104 after 41 tiring overs, with part-timers Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh and Virender Sehwag arguably underutilised.

Prior's 84 not out featured 10 boundaries, proving a superb complement to his captain's endeavours. Cook, for his 341-delivery stay, amassed exactly twice as many runs - and fours - as his counterpart.

He passed former skipper - and current batting coach - Graham Gooch's tally of 20 Test tons in the process, drawing level with ex-skipper Andrew Strauss and Pietersen on 21. Geoff Boycott, Colin Cowdrey and Wally Hammond lead the pack on 22, but a rare double-century by an Englishman on Indian soil remains very achievable.

England will not consider themselves out of the proverbial woods yet, but another full session of batting come Monday will certainly have a hard-fought draw on the cards. India, meanwhile, need to shrug off a relatively uninspired display on Sunday to win a contest that never really looked like reaching a fifth and final day.