Alastair Cook's tourists, needing a draw here to close out a historic series victory, lost both openers - their captain and Nick Compton - to Ishant Sharma inside the first hour, but Pietersen (68no) and Jonathan Trott then shared a hard-working stand of 86 in 39 overs to carry England into three figures on the way to a teatime 133 for four after they had chosen to bat first.
Pietersen had to play a very different game in his 108-ball 50 today to the century with which he transformed proceedings in England's famous second-Test victory in Mumbai last month.
Compton was the first to be undone by the slow-motion surface when a short delivery produced only looping, disorientating bounce. As the ball died off the surface his bat was thrown into position too quickly and resulted in a thin edge which barely carried to the wicketkeeper.
Cook needed 15 balls to get off the mark, as Pragyan Ojha took the new ball in the absence of a second seamer and tried to out-bore the England captain with a seven-two leg-side field and consequent negative line.
Trott contributed England's first boundary, a straight-driven four when Sharma helpfully took the pitch out of the equation with a half-volley, but the number three was fortunate to survive on seven when he played too soon at a length ball and was hit on the pad.
Sharma was convinced the lbw was stone-dead, but umpire Kumar Dharmasena made the marginal call that ball had hit pad just outside the line of off-stump.
Cook found himself on the other side of a similar ruling soon afterwards from Dharmasena - and although it looked as if he was hit outside the line, this time he had to go lbw.
Trott and Pietersen provided some much-needed stability as they gradually attuned themselves to an unfamiliar experience, even by sub-continental standards before Trott fell to slow left-armer Ravindra Jadeja as a misjudgment saw him wave through an arm ball which bowled him off-stump.
Ian Bell disappointed, making only a single in 28 balls before poking a straightforward catch to cover off leg-spinner Piyush Chawla. And as Pietersen shepherded debutant Joe Root through to the end of the afternoon session, a record-equalling 23rd Test century appeared on the horizon.