Two wickets in the first five overs and a disciplined effort in the middle period looked to be putting the tourists in a position of dominance until a dynamic sixth-wicket stand dragged India to a challenging 285 for six in front of 60,000 baying fans at the Nehru Stadium.
Dhoni finished with 72 and Jadeja made 61 not out as the pair added 96 in 60 balls in a dizzying end to the innings. Predictions had been for a high-scoring match, but England started with impressive control.
Steven Finn conceded just five runs from his first four overs to keep the scoring in check, but it was an early double strike that really lifted the fielding side. First Jade Dernbach took advantage of a loose stroke by Gautam Gambhir to bowl the opener between bat and pad and then Finn repeated the trick, coaxing one off the seam and into Ajinkya Rahane's off stump.
Yuvraj Singh and Virat Kohli led a fightback, putting on 53 runs for the third wicket in contrasting fashion. Yuvraj took on the bowling and profited to the tune of five boundaries in 37 balls, while Kohli played a more modest hand.
The pair were on track to negate England's strong start until a combination of James Tredwell's nagging accuracy and an umpiring error sent Yuvraj back for 32. Steve Davis missed an inside edge in giving the left-hander lbw, as India's objection to DRS again cost them.
Suresh Raina lifted things with a slog sweep for six off Tredwell in the 18th over and Kohli, who had looked tentative for much of his innings, finally cut loose by striking Samit Patel over the ropes at extra-cover.
The pair busily added 48 before Kohli tried an ambitious shot off Chris Woakes and was held deep in the off-side by Ian Bell. Raina's second six off Tredwell took the hosts to 136 for four with 20 overs to go, with Dhoni his new partner.
Patel was first to complete his allocation, a tidy spell costing 43, while part-timer Joe Root was again called upon, bowling two overs for five. Raina's 50 came up in 66 balls, leaving him well set for the batting powerplay. But instead, England excelled in the five-over spell. India managed a paltry 21 runs and lost Raina for 55 when he inside edged the ball into his stumps looking to pull Finn.
Dernbach also did well in the powerplay, tieing down Dhoni and then exchanging angry words with the India skipper after he ran down the centre of the pitch. A costly two-over spell from Woakes saw India add 26 runs, with three fours and a six apiece from Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja.
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- James Tredwell