Three-wicket bursts by Sam Cook and Mohammad Amir helped Specsavers County Championship leaders Essex command a rain-interrupted opening day to the 168th Canterbury Cricket Week encounter with Kent.

By stumps at the Spitfire Ground, Kent had limped to 125 for six after 53 overs with Cook and Amir sharing the spoils for the visitors.

Chelmsford-born paceman Cook wrecked Kent’s top-order during a stint of three for seven, while Amir hit his straps later in the day after the hosts had mounted a partial recovery courtesy of a three-hour innings of 55 by Daniel Bell-Drummond and a gritty 35 from wicketkeeper-batsman Ollie Robinson.

Batting first after an uncontested toss, Kent lost Zak Crawley in only the fourth over of the day.

Driving down the wrong line at a full delivery from Amir, Crawley was bowled through the gate, losing his off stump to make it seven for one.

With heavy cloud cover and the floodlights on from the third over, Amir and Jamie Porter continued to set the Kent batsmen a stern examination until rain stopped play with Kent on 11 for one after only 9.1 overs.

With the covers on and pools of rainwater quickly forming on the outfield, the players went in for lunch as umpires Ian Blackwell and Paul Baldwin eventually deemed that play could restart at 3.29pm with the loss of 43 overs in the day.

Seven overs after the resumption, Kent opener Sean Dickson shuffled half-forward to a Cook in-ducker to be hit on the knee roll and depart lbw for eight.

In his next over, Cook snared the returning Kent skipper Sam Billings in near identical fashion, lbw for one on his maiden first-class appearance of the season.

Cook struck again during his superb mid-afternoon stint by removing Heino Kuhn for six – Kent’s fourth batsman to depart for a single-figure score.

The South African’s late decision to run a Cook off-cutter down to third man backfired when he chopped the ball onto his off stump.

Kent rebuilt steadily either side of tea through Robinson and Bell-Drummond, who added 68 for the fifth wicket, with the latter extending a fine run of red-ball form which has seen him register a 50 or a century in each of his last five innings in the four-day format.

Bell-Drummond, Kent’s leading championship run-scorer this the season, notched his fifth half-century of the campaign from 99 balls, while Robinson – who contributed 35 in 98 minutes – batted with maturity to help take Kent into three figures.

With six overs left in the day, Amir returned for a second spell to finally dislodge Bell-Drummond, who chopped on for a painstaking 55 after aiming a late cut to a low-bouncing delivery.

In his next over, the Pakistan left-armer swung one in through the air to pluck out Robinson’s off stump, leaving Darren Stevens – on his 300th first-class appearance – and Ollie Rayner to see Kent through to stumps without further alarm.