Durham seamer Graham Onions claimed 4-20 as the England Lions reduced Sri Lanka A to 281-9 on the opening day of the second unofficial Test in Dambulla.
On a flat pitch, Onions was ably assisted by fellow pacemen Chris Woakes and Liam Plunkett as the hosts were kept in check before lunch.
Onions sent back captain Upul Tharanga in the second over of the day but no more wickets fell before the break despite a run-rate of little more than two-an-over.
The home batsmen did break the shackles in the afternoon before both Dimuth Karunaratne (37) and Bhanuka Rajapaksa (68) gave their wickets away on the hook.
Karunaratne top-edged Onions to long leg after Madawa Warnapura had been caught and bowled by Steve Borthwick for 34, leaving the hosts 86-3.
Rajapaksa added 77 with Roshen Silva before clubbing spinner Simon Kerrigan to Onions at deep mid-wicket, just a ball after he had been stationed there following a six.
Silva was the next to go having reached 73, the second of five batsmen to be caught at the wicket by Jonny Bairstow.
It was the sole wicket of the day for the deserving Woakes (1-28) while Plunkett weighed in with the scalp of Niroshan Dickwella (3).
Borthwick (2-61) had Chaturanga de Silva caught behind for 20 to one that turned and bounced before Onions returned to remove Tharindu Kaushal (31) and Chatura Randunu without scoring.