Resuming from the overnight score of 203 for five, New Zealand were knocked out for 249 losing their last five wickets for 46 runs.
Angelo Mathews, Lahiru Thirimanne, Kane Williamson, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, Kusal Perera, Colin de Grandhomme, Akila Dananjaya, Trent Boult, Suranga Lakmal, Ajaz Patel. New Zealand were switching bowlers fast, with Kane Williamson even trying himself for the first time in the Test, but the 44-run stand between the senior-most batsmen all but put Sri Lanka on the brink. Captain Dimuth Karunaratne led the way with his ninth test century, making 122, and adding 161 for the first wicket with Lahiru Thirimanne.
Karunaratne stroked six boundaries and hit one six before the right-hander perished when he was caught behind chasing a wide Tim Southee delivery.
Sri Lanka have made some big changes to their team with experienced players like Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal returning to the side. The record for most sixes in Test cricket belongs to former New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum, who had scored a whopping 107 sixes in 101 Test matches. The ball flew into his helmet and gets stuck in there for a while.
Williamson, the prize wicket, was out three balls later without scoring, also beaten by the bounce when he pushed the ball straight to Sri Lanka captain Dimuth Karunaratne at short midwicket.
Play started 15 minutes early because only 34 deliveries were possible in the third session on the opening day because of rain.
Ross Taylor (3), top scorer in the first innings with 86, tried to hit a wider delivery from Embuldeniya past cover and was caught at slip by de Silva.
Taylor's 132-ball innings included six boundaries.
Mathews was dismissed soon after completing his half-century, becoming Patel's fifth victim. Sri Lanka vs New Zealand Dream11 Prediction: Tips to Pick Best All-Rounders, Batsmen, Bowlers & Wicket-Keepers for SL vs NZ 1st Test Match 2019.
Left-arm spinner Lasith Embuldeniya, the man tipped to fill the boots of Sri Lankan legend Rangana Herath, struck a couple of massive blows in the second essay after failing to claim a wicket in the first innings.