Joe Root rose to the occasion as England kicked off their World Cup defence by posting 282 for nine against New Zealand in a tightly-fought tournament opener in Ahmedabad.
The competition got under way with a repeat of the 2019 final, featuring 11 survivors from that classic encounter, but only a small proportion of the 134,000 seats at the cavernous Narendra Modi Stadium were filled to witness the clash.
Root, England’s top run-scorer four years ago, banished a run of indifferent form to carve out 77 from 86 balls and the reigning champions would have been lost without his class and composure at number three.
With Ben Stokes’ hip injury leaving a conspicuous gap in the middle order, England’s top order was swept aside all too easily.
Dawid Malan never came to terms with conditions after England were sent in to bat, Jonny Bairstow and Stokes’ deputy Harry Brook both gave away promising starts and Moeen Ali’s promotion to five was a gambit that blew up quickly.
England did not really settle until Root was joined by captain Jos Buttler in a fifth-wicket stand of 70, but when the latter was prised out by the impressive Matt Henry the pressure was back on.
Root accumulated calmly as the mistakes piled up around him, scoring four boundaries and one jaw-dropping reverse ramp for six, but he could not steer the innings home and was bowled through his legs with more than eight overs left.
Bairstow got the 48-match tournament off and running in style when he flicked Trent Boult’s second ball for a nonchalant six over square leg, but there was enough assistance in the pitch to ensure bat did not dominate for long.
Malan, newly installed as England’s first choice opener after usurping Jason Roy, eked out 14 in 24 deliveries before edging Henry behind attempted to hit his way into touch.
Bairstow (33) enjoyed a smoother start but just as he looked to be asserting himself, he failed to commit to a checked drive and lifted a gentle catch down the ground.
Root produced his party piece when he switched his hands to Boult and flipped him over the wicketkeeper’s head and into the stands and when Brook went after Rachin Ravindra’s first over the momentum appeared to be shifting.
Three successive drag downs disappeared for four, four, six but Brook succumbed looking for more of the same, picking out Devon Conway as he patrolled the midwicket boundary.
Moeen was sent in next, ahead of schedule, but lost his off stump to an ugly hack at Glenn Phillips.
Root and Buttler stabilised things through the middle overs, picking their moments to attack, but New Zealand stuck to the task. Henry returned to pick up Buttler’s edge for 43, leaving Root with plenty still to do at 188 for five.
A first hundred since the last World Cup would have done the trick but Root got his angles wrong as he aimed a reverse sweep at Phillips, yorking and nutmegging himself in the same act.
All-rounders Liam Livingstone (20) and Sam Curran (14) came and went before a 30-run cameo from the last-wicket pair of Mark Wood and Adil Rashid added some gloss to the English effort.