Owais Shah scored a circumspect and unbeaten 83 to ensure Essex took the the opening-day plaudits in their LV= County Championship clash with Kent at Canterbury.
The stylish 34-year-old batted for almost four hours in tricky conditions to post his best championship score of the summer and blunt the home attack as Essex reached 186 for four prior to bad light stopping play after 77.1 overs.
Having seen his side lose two early wickets Shah, who won the last of his six England Test caps in 2009, dug in and hit only eight fours in his watchful 180-ball stay.
An unbroken fifth-wicket stand with Ben Foakes frustrated the Kent and was worth 69 at stumps.
With James Tredwell absent on England one-day international duty, Geraint Jones - fresh from plotting Kent's second win of the season at Glamorgan last week - continued as acting captain and, after winning the toss, duly asked Essex to bat under leaden skies.
With the floodlights on from the start, the visitors lost right-hander Jaik Mickleburgh without scoring to the third ball of the match when, in pushing defensively at one from Mark Davies, he popped a bat-pad chance to Daniel Bell-Drummond at forward short-leg.
Darren Stevens replaced Charlie Shreck at the Pavilion End and struck with his seventh ball of the day to make it 19 for two when Greg Smith edged an attempted drive to first slip.
Kent might have picked up a third wicket in the opening session when Shah, on seven, top-edged an attempted pull against Calum Haggett, only for Jones to spill a difficult diving catch on the run at fine-leg.
Essex went to lunch on 59 for two and had moved to 74 when Gautam Gambhir drove loosely at Charlie Shreck and picked out Brendan Nash at cover.
Ryan ten Doeschate helped take the total through to 117 before his rash decision to sweep at the first delivery of the day from off-spinner Adam Riley cost him dearly as he departed leg before.
Foakes teamed up with Shah for 23 overs thereafter, prospering despite the seamer-friendly conditions until umpires Jeremy Lloyds and Neil Mallender decided the light was too poor to continue.
Though four of the five floodlights were fully operational the officials took the players off and they never returned.