Sri Lanka lost debutant opener Dimuth Karunaratne to reach 9 for 1 at stumps, in reply to New Zealand's 221 on the first day of the opening Test in Galle.
Earlier at tea, Rangana Herath and Shaminda Eranga shared five wickets to put New Zealand under pressure on the opening day.
Left-arm spinner Herath removed well-set Brendon McCullum for 68, Daniel Flynn and James Franklin in the afternoon session before New Zealand reached 155 for 6 in their first innings at tea.
The tourists were struggling at 40-3 following paceman Eranga's double-strike in the morning before McCullum and left-handed Flynn steadied the innings with a 90 run stand for the fourth wicket.
At stumps, Tharanga Paranavitana was at the crease with nightwatchman Suraj Randiv.