England 127 for 2 (Root 66*, Bairstow 47*) trail Sri Lanka 135 (Bess 5-30, Broad 3-20) by eight runs
Galle: Spinner Dom Bess took 5-30 as a woeful Sri Lanka batting display left England in control after the opening day at Galle International Stadium on Thursday.
The hosts were bowled out for 135 in only 46.1 overs despite winning the toss on a pitch that offered only a little spin.
England closed on 127-2, with Joe Root unbeaten on 66, Jonny Bairstow 47 not out and their third-wicket stand worth 110.
Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley fell to left-arm spinner Lasith Embuldeniya for four and nine respectively.
Sri Lanka's total was the lowest in a first innings in a Galle Test, and was a pitiful exhibition of indiscipline and poor strokes which demonstrated a clear lack of understanding of how to build a Test innings.
England, who made five changes from their previous Test in August, were disciplined with the ball and tidy in the field, aside from a drop from debutant Dan Lawrence, with Stuart Broad superb in taking 3-20.
Earlier, Dom Bess, the spinner returned figures of 5-30 off just 10.1 overs with strong support from Stuart Broad (3-20) as the home side’s wayward batting saw them fail to take advantage of winning the toss and electing to bat first on the opening day.
It was the lowest first innings score in a test at Galle, well short of the previous mark of 181 for Sri Lanka against Pakistan 21 years ago.
England, who won 3-0 in their last series in Sri Lanka two years ago, will start their innings after tea.
The 23-year-old Bess got off to the perfect start when he took the wicket of the dangerous Kusal Perera with only his second ball of the morning. Attempting an ambitious reverse sweep, Perera succeeded only in top edging the ball to Joe Root at slip to depart for 20 in the first of several ill-considered shots from the home batsmen.
Niroshan Dickwella was caught at backward point for 12 while Dasun Shanaka, who scored 23, went in bizarre circumstances, sweeping his shot onto the ankle of Jonny Bairstow at short leg, popping it up into the air for wicketkeeper Jos Buttler to claim.
Bess completed a second test five-wicket haul by bowling Dilruwan Perera and Wanindu Hasaranga.
Preferred to England’s record test wicket taker James Anderson, Broad bagged opener Lahiru Thirimanne and struggling Kusal Mendis in the same over for the first two wickets of the test and then added Angel Mathews after lunch.
Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal, who took over the captaincy from injured Dimuth Karunaratne, looked to be fighting back after Sri Lanka were 65-3 for lunch but their 56-run partnership for the fourth wicket came to an end when Mathews thrashed at Broad’s delivery and it flew through to Root in the slips for a sharp catch.
Chandimal went in the next over, caught by Sam Curran off Jack Leach, for the top score of the innings of 28.
Sri Lanka were forced to leave out Karunaratne due to a fractured thumb - another injury blow to a team that suffered several setbacks on their tour of South Africa earlier this month.