KENT showed poor form with the bat after being dismissed for 226 on the opening day of their LV= County Championship Division Two clash with Essex at Canterbury.

Only Michael Powell, with a gritty 62 scored in almost three hours, got to grips with the difficult batting conditions as the useful Essex seam trio of Graham Napier, David Masters and Maurice Chambers bagged three wickets apiece to dismiss the hosts by 5.50pm.

In the nine overs remaining in the day, Essex reached 14 without loss and will go into day two trailing by 212 runs.

Without a win at Canterbury since May and fresh from close, yet disappointing away results at Hampshire and Derbyshire, Kent were forced into team changes at the start of the day.

James Tredwell's inclusion by England Lions led to a second appearance of the summer for Adam Riley, while Azhar Mahmood made a season's four-day debut to replace the resting Mark Davies.

Ben Harmison, having scored 311 runs at a championship average of 20, was understandably rested and Alex Blake handed an opportunity at the vital number three batting berth.

Batting first after winning the toss, Kent made a poor start when skipper Rob Key, in aiming to work to leg, caught a leading edge to offer a low return catch to Chambers.

Sam Northeast looked in command in reaching 32, until he fenced a Chambers leg-cutter to second slip to see Harbhajan Singh parry the catch straight to the wicketkeeper James Foster.

Blake also looked unhurried in posting his 19 runs, but his decision to shoulder arms to a Napier off-cutter resulted in his off-stump cart-wheeling clean out of the ground.

Having been dropped by Harbhajan just before lunch when on 11, Brendan Nash was caught two balls after the resumption by the same player off the bowling of Masters to make it 82 for four and bring together Michael Powell and Darren Stevens for a useful stand of 38.

Stevens was unlucky to drag an attempted drive against Napier onto leg stump, but Geraint Jones had no such excuse as he prodded hesitantly at the same bowler to go leg before.

In the over before tea and after a stoic 98-ball 50 with only four boundaries, Powell chased a wide one from Chambers to be caught by Harbhajan in the cordon then Matt Coles lamely chipped to wide mid-on to give the veteran India spinner his only wicket of the day.

Riley was undone by the new ball, caught behind off Masters then Azhar, who was batting with a runner after a bout of cramp, missed an expansive drive to be bowled by Napier and fall one short of his half-century.