Sri Lanka won the toss and elected to bat against England on Thursday after skipper Dimuth Karunaratne sat out with a fractured thumb.
Dinesh Chandimal stands in as captain of the side that includes three regular spinners in the starting XI in the first of the two Tests in Galle.England batsman Dan Lawrence makes his international debut as the tourists resume the series that was aborted in the early phase of the coronavirus pandemic in March.
Captain Joe Root has opted for three quick bowlers and two spinners in Dominic Bess and Jack Leach under clear skies despite a threat of rain.
The series will be played behind closed doors but a lone England fan, who has waited 10 months in Sri Lanka for a postponed tour to restart, has put up banners on the ramparts of the old fort overlooking the picturesque stadium.
Sri Lanka: Dinesh Chandimal (capt), Lahiru Thirimanne, Kusal Perera, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Niroshan Dickwella, Dasun Shanaka, Wanindu Hasaranga, Dilruwan Perera, Lasith Embuldeniya, Asitha Fernando
England: Joe Root (capt), Zak Crawley, Dominic Sibley, Jonny Bairstow, Daniel Lawrence, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Dominic Bess, Jack Leach, Mark Wood, Stuart Broad