England were facing an uphill battle after losing three early wickets in the third one-day international against India.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni was rewarded after inserting the tourists as his home city of Ranchi hosted its first ever day of international cricket in front of 39,000 rapt fans.
Alastair Cook (17), Kevin Pietersen (17) and Ian Bell (25) all came and went after getting starts as the home side reduced England to 68 for three in the 16th over.
India's bowlers dictated terms throughout the mandatory 10-over powerplay. Bhuvneshwar Kumar yielded just two from his first two overs and beat Bell's outside edge with a beauty.
Cook turned Ahmed's second delivery wide of mid-on for the first boundary of the day but both batsmen were kept in check by some tight lines. While Cook found a way to rotate the strike, Bell struggled and after 18 balls had just one run, off the outside edge.
Cook picked up two more boundaries but was the first man out in the eighth over, Ahmed rapping him on the pad and persuading umpire Steve Davis to raise the finger.
At the end of the 10th England had nudged along to 34 for one, with Pietersen now joining Bell at the crease. Bell picked up two boundaries moments later, one an authoritative square drive the other a less convincing top-edged hook.
Pietersen seemed like he was adding some impetus into the innings but was given out caught behind to Ishant Sharma for 17. Pietersen did not obviously hit it and looked aghast at the decision, lingering longer than he should have. Worse was to come, with Bell nicking the returning Kumar and Dhoni taking a sharp catch standing up.
Eoin Morgan took some of the sting out of the situation in a 30-ball stay, but had only added 10 when he botched a reverse sweep against Ravichandran Ashwin and offered a dolly to Yuvraj Singh.
Joe Root had seemed relatively composed but he could do nothing about England's woeful position when Craig Kieswetter and Samit Patel fell to Ravindra Jadeja within seconds of each other. At the halfway stage of the innings, the tourists were reeling on 98 for six.