SOUTHAMPTON - Sam Curran marked his England return with a Test-best 78 as the hosts fought back on the first day of the fourth Test against India at Southampton on Thursday.

It was a familiar story when Curran, primarily a left-arm swing bowler and playing just his fourth Test, came into bat with England in dire straits at 86 for six. But thanks to the 20-year-old they finished on a far more respectable 246 all out, with India fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah taking an economical three wickets for 46 runs in his 20 overs

India had four overs to bat until the close but reached stumps on 19 without loss, a deficit of 227 runs. Shikhar Dhawan was three not out and KL Rahul 11 not out. Curran was unfortunate to miss the third Test at Trent Bridge, a match India won by 203 runs to reduce England's lead in the five-match series to 2-1, as he made way for returning all-rounder Ben Stokes. But Thursday saw him put on 81 for the seventh wicket with the recalled Moeen Ali (40) and Curran then added 63 for the ninth with Stuart Broad (17).

Curran, a son of the late Zimbabwe all-rounder Kevin Curran, was last man out, bowled trying to heave spinner Ravichandran Ashwin. In all, he batted for over three hours, facing 136 balls including eight fours and a six.

Earlier, England captain Joe Root opted to bat after winning the toss and promptly saw his side slump to 36 for four. It was the 32nd time in their last 63 Test innings that England had been four wickets down with 100 or fewer runs on the scoreboard. India's four quicks all gained sharp and often extravagant seam movement -- which helped explain the large total of 23 byes conceded by wicket-keeper Rishabh Pant.

Bumrah struck with just his seventh delivery when he had the Keaton Jennings lbw for a duck, with the struggling left-hander leaving a ball that cut back into him. Root reprieved after a Bumrah review for lbw revealed a no-ball, then fell leg before to Ishant Sharma to leave England 15 for two.

Jonny Bairstow had been promoted to bat at number four despite a broken finger suffered at Trent Bridge that means he is unfit to keep wicket, with Jos Buttler set to deputise again behind the stumps as he did at Nottingham. Bairstow, however was caught behind off Bumrah for six. All the while, Alastair Cook, England's all-time leading Test run-scorer, had watched the collapse from the other end. But the veteran opener, himself looking to end of a run of low scores, fell for 17 when he carelessly played outside off stump to Hardik Pandya and saw an edge well caught low down at third slip by India captain Virat Kohli.

Buttler, as happened during his maiden Test century at Trent Bridge, was dropped early in his innings by Pant. But on Thursday he fell for 21, edging a loose drive off Mohammed Shami to Kohli in the slip cordon. Stokes had made a battling 62 during a second-innings partnership of 169 with Buttler at Trent Bridge. He again demonstrated good concentration while making 23 off 79 balls on Thursday but he was lbw to Shami.

Ali, fresh from making 219 for Worcestershire against Yorkshire, hooked Bumrah for six. Curran and Ali were recalled after Curran's fellow 20-year-old Surrey rising star Ollie Pope, a batsman, was dropped and pace-bowling all-rounder Chris Woakes ruled out with a thigh injury.

Ali drove Ashwin for six before his opposing off-spinner had him top-edging a sweep well caught on the run by Bumrah.

Curran, man of the match for a fine all-round display that included an innings of 63 in England's 31-run win in the first Test against India at Edgbaston, was undaunted as he drove Pandya for four. He then went to fifty in style, hoisting Ashwin for six over wide long-on.

Scoreboard

ENGLAND 1ST INNINGS:
A Cook c Kohli b Pandya 17
K Jennings lbw b Bumrah 0
J Root lbw b Sharma 4
J Bairstow c Pant b Bumrah 6
B Stokes lbw b Shami 23
J Buttler c Kohli b Shami 21
M Ali c Bumrah b Ashwin 40
S Curran b Ashwin 78
A Rashid lbw b Sharma 6
S Broad lbw b Bumrah 17
J Anderson not out 0
EXTRAS: (b23, lb9, nb2) 34
TOTAL: (all out, 76.4 overs) 246
FOW: 1-1, 2-15, 3-28, 4-36, 5-69, 6-86, 7-167, 8-177, 9-240, 10-246.
BOWLING: Bumrah 20-5-46-3 (1nb); Sharma 16-6-26-2; Pandya 8-0-51-1 (1nb); Shami 18-2-51-2; Ashwin 14.4-3-40-2.
INDIA IST INNINGS:
S Dhawan not out 3
KL Rahul not out 11
EXTRAS: (b 4, w 1) 5
TOTAL: (0 wkt, 4 overs) 19
BOWLING: JM Anderson 2-1-3-0, SCJ Broad 2-0-12-0
TOSS: England
UMPIRES: Kumar Dharmasena (SRI), Bruce Oxenford (AUS)
TV UMPIRE: Joel Wilson (WIS)
MATCH REFEREE: Andy Pycroft (ZIM)