India recovered from losing three wickets early in the final day which briefly gave the hosts a glimpse of victory but test debutant Stuart Binny and tail-ender Bhuvneshwar Kumar both scored half centuries to snuff out the danger.
The Nottingham ground had not hosted a drawn test match since 2002, when India were also the visitors, but despite both teams suffering mid-innings mini collapses in their first innings, bowling proved a slog on a flat pitch.
India would have hoped to have been bowling for a victory on Sunday but an all-time test record 10th-wicket stand of 198 between Joe Root and James Anderson on day four meant they had work to do just to ensure the draw.
“We dragged ourselves out of a hole in this game (on Saturday),” England captain Alastair Cook told Sky Sports.
“We had a poor session when we lost six wickets. It was an outstanding 100 from Root and with Jimmy to have got 80-something. I didn’t see it coming but thank goodness he got it.”
The tourists began the day on 167 for three, a lead of 128 runs, but under gloomy skies which aided swing bowling, England’s attack made early inroads.
In the second over of the day Stuart Broad got the ball to reverse swing and Virat Kohli (eight), widely considered India’s most dangerous batsmen, was trapped leg before.
Broad claimed his second victim soon after when Ajinkya Rahane fell for 24 after edging a swinging delivery to wicketkeeper Matt Prior.
India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (11) was dropped by his England counterpart Alastair Cook off Broad but failed to make the most of his luck when Liam Plunkett sent his stumps cart wheeling out of the ground with a full delivery.
At that stage an England victory was still possible but Ravindra Jadeja stemmed the tide with a laboured 31 before edging an Anderson delivery to Prior shortly after lunch.
“Today you saw no matter what pitch you play on, teams can be put under pressure, but unfortunately a couple of their guys got stuck in,” Anderson said.
“We knew there was a small chance of winning but we gave it everything. Cookie was very keen to give the first couple of hours a real push, which we did.”
As the match idled towards a draw, under-pressure England captain Cook, who has not enjoyed a win in nine test matches, decided to rest his four-man seam attack ahead of the second test at Lord’s on Thursday and introduced part-time spinners Moeen Ali and Joe Root.
Ali followed his two wickets from the previous day when he trapped Binny lbw but not before the batsman had reached a maiden test half century – 78 off 114 balls.
In a test of milestones Kumar’s half-century, following his first innings 58, meant he was only the second number nine to reach 50 in each innings in a test match, matching the record of Peter Siddle against India in Delhi last year.
Kumar also shared in a 111 partnership with number 11 Mohammed Shami in India’s first innings – a last-wicket record for India against England.
Even Cook himself had a bowl, much to the delight of the home crowd, and he was allowed a smile with the wicket of Ishant Sharma (13) when he edged to Prior.
“A few people aren’t talking to me,” Cook explained after a playful two overs in which he played up to cheers of the fans.
“It was a extraordinary moment for me to have more test wickets than [bowling coach] David Saker.
“We threw everything into today but when they got above 250-260 you felt we weren’t going to win. We had a sniff when they were only 200 ahead but the wicket won.”
India declared after his over and as stumps were drawn all eyes moved to the home of cricket next week. (Reuters)