England's Alastair Cook and Ravi Bopara both fell cheaply at Lord's on the second morning of Essex's LV County Championship match against Middlesex.
The Test opener and number three, among several England players released to play for their counties in search of runs or wickets before next week's Ashes decider at The Oval, managed only 10 of the former between them.
Left-handed opener Cook went lbw to Tim Murtagh for nine - and then Bopara, under even more pressure after his double failure in England's fourth-Test defeat at Headingley, made only one before falling to the same bowler to what became the final ball before lunch.
Essex were therefore 15 for two in reply to 356 all out, Danish Kaneria having taken two more wicket this morning to finish with four for 74.
Up in Division One, morning rain at Trent Bridge meant England's Ian Bell and Test aspirant Jonathan Trott would have to wait for their chance to impress for Warwickshire.
The visitors were 24 for one at stumps last night, after Nottinghamshire had made 388.
Test seamer Graham Onions was wicketless for Durham at Old Trafford, where Callum Thorp instead did the damage before Lancashire recovered from 16 for two to 81 without further loss.
Durham made 270 all out yesterday.
At Hove, Worcestershire's Australian seamer Matt Mason (five for 31) continued his good form as Sussex's reply to 256 faltered to 160 for six.
Yorkshire reached lunch on 93 for none at Basingstoke, responding to Hampshire's 250 all out.
Rain was also providing frustration back down in Division Two.
Leaders Kent had no opportunity to make early progress against Northamptonshire, who were 38 for one after bowling the visitors out for 244 yesterday.
The bad weather prevented any play before lunch between promotion-chasing Derbyshire and bottom club Leicestershire at Grace Road.
The visitors were 67 for one, in reply to 177 all out.