Vijay brought up his 4th Test hundred and shared crucial stands with Pujara (38), Rahane (32) and Dhoni (50*) while staying unbeaten at 122 after India decided to bat.
The Nottingham weather didn't threaten one bit and allowed an intriguing day of Test cricket in bright English sunshine, with India taking the opening day honours in the first Test - thanks to unbeaten 122 runs from Murali Vijay who took India to a healthy 259 for 4 at stumps in Trent Bridge.
Vijay's fourth Test hundred was the cornerstone of the Indian effort on day one that saw the centurior sharing crucial half-century stands with Cheteshwar Pujara (38), Ajinkya Rahane (32) and skipper MS Dhoni (50*), who didn't think twice before deciding to bat on a brownish, dry-looking track.
Stuart Binny made his Test debut, while Rahane was preferred over Rohit Sharma in the playing XI. Gautam Gambhir was made to wait with Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan selected as openers.
Vijay started aggressively by stroking three boundaries in the very first over off James Anderson, who was England's best bowler on the day with figures of 2 for 70. But Vijay, unperturbed by the premature loss of Dhawan (12), took advantage of the flat wicket and brought up his half century with his 11th four, a gliding off-drive from Ben Stokes, in 68 balls.
But he should also thank India's No. 3 Cheteshwar Pujara who batted solidly at the other end after Dhawan fell, and both took India to 106/1 at lunch. Anderson took the wicket of Dhawan, the only one to fell in the first session. The left-hander edged a delivery from around the wicket to Matt Prior, who took a diving catch to his left. It was also Anderson's 50th Test wicket at Trent Bridge.
But Vijay and Pujara had an indifferent start to the second session. They had put on 73 runs for the second wicket in the morning session as the English pacers found the going tough on a placid wicket. But the story changed as the players took the field after lunch, with Anderson and fellow pacer Stuart Broad suddenly finding reverse swing and picking up two quick wickets.
Pujara was the first to go, in the second over after lunch, as the delivery from Anderson jagged in and took off with Ian Bell taking a stunning catch at silly mid-on. India's No. 3 departed without adding to his tally. Pujara's dismissal was also something of a tactical triumph for under pressure English skipper Cook. And soon 106 for 3 became 107 for 4 when Kohli opened the face of his bat against Broad and gave away a low catch to Ian Bell at second slip. England had taken two wickets for one run in 10 balls.
Rahane walked in next and spent some nervous moments at the crease, but at the other end Vijay stayed put and continued his fine knock to ease the pressure on his partner. Although the scoring rate suffered with only 18 runs coming from the 14 overs bowled in the first hour after lunch, the crucial thing for India was not to lose any more wickets at that stage.
With Anderson and Broad taken off the attack, Vijay and Rahane started plucking runs off other bowlers. Liam Plunkett, Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali made little impression as the batsmen brought up their 50-run partnership in the 54th over.
At tea, India were 177 for 3, with Vijay 92 not out at that time and accompanied by Rahane, who was unbeaten on 32.
Like after the first break, Vijay lost his partner soon after the second when Rahane was plucked by Liam Plunkett for 32. Once again, Vijay had to re-arrange himself as India, playing with five bowlers, have a batsman short in this match.
Dhoni, at No. 6, was the next man to join Vijay, wth India needing partnerships similar to the ones Vijay had had with Pujara and Rahane. But Vijay should thank his skipper for taking the pressure off him. Dhoni scored close to run a ball and Vijay had to just worry about keeping his end intact and reach his century patiently. And after spending nine nervous deliveries on 99, Dhoni called Vijay for a cheeky single which both completed touch dangerously in the end. Vijay had his fourth Test hundred in 214 balls.
Runs started coming again from then on, and it forced England to take the second new ball, but it remained futile at the end of 90 overs, with Dhoni and Vijay still together having added 81 runs.