The Black Caps' top order has crumbled against Sri Lankan spinner Akila Danajaya, the tourists reaching 71/3 at lunch on day one of the first Test in Galle.
With captain Kane Williamson winning the toss and opting to bat first, the Black Caps made a slow but steady start, openers Tom Latham and Jeet Raval adding 50 for the first wicket.
However, when Latham fell caught behind to Dananjaya for 30, the wheels began to fall off the Black Caps' first innings.
Captain Williamson was the next to fall, out in the same over for a duck, before Raval fell with the last ball before lunch, caught by Dhananjaya de Silva for 32.
The Black Caps are now reliant on the middle order pair of Ross Taylor (six not out) and Henry Nicholls, who will resume after lunch.