Graeme Swann and Tim Bresnan both scored unbeaten fifties to help boost England's total after several batsmen threw away promising starts on the first day of the Ashes warm-up against Essex on Sunday.
England finished the opening day of four at Chelmsford, east of London, on 328 for seven.
But it was not until the eighth wicket duo of Swann (62 not out) and Bresnan (55 not out) shared an unbroken partnership of 116 that England had a fifty stand.
Kevin Pietersen, playing his first match for England in any format since leaving the tour of New Zealand in March with a knee injury, looked in fine touch ahead of the first Test against Australia at Trent Bridge on July 10 while making 49 on Sunday.
But, trying to overpower Tom Craddock, he gave a sharp return catch to become the first of a trio of wickets for the young leg-spinner, who finished the day with three for 67 after helping spark an England slump from 163 for three to 212 for seven.
England captain Alastair Cook, playing against his own county, was first out after he was caught behind cutting off paceman Tymal Mills.
Joe Root, earmarked to be Cook's opening partner in the first Test, suffered a painful blow as he pushed out against Mills but made 41 before edging former England fast bowler Sajid Mahmood low to second slip.
Jonathan Trott played steadily until he too was caught behind.
Pietersen's first 16 runs consisted of four successive fours and then clubbed the first ball he received from Craddock over mid-off. The next delivery Pietersen smashed back the bowler's way and Craddock, diving to his right, just failed to hold the one-handed chance.
Pietersen, undeterred by his reprieve, kept playing his shots but in Craddock's next over the bowler held a head high return catch.
Craddock struck again when he removed Ian Bell although it needed a superb catch by short leg Jaik Mickelburgh, anticipating the batsman's sweep shot, to complete the dismissal.
However, as the close fielder had moved considerably before the batsman played his shot, thee was some conjecture as to whether the umpires ought to have called 'dead ball' instead.
But there was no such debate when Matt Prior was caught behind off Craddock's well-flighted leg-break.
However, Swann hit Craddock out of the attack with four fours in an over, and went to fifty on 67 balls faced while receiving sound support from Bresnan.