New number three Ben Stokes fell for 19 and captain Joe Root was dismissed cheaply again as England slipped to 120 for 4 in the opening session of the second Test against Sri Lanka on Wednesday.
The tourists elected to bat in their bid for a series-clinching win but lost four wickets before lunch on a pitch already assisting spinners in Kandy.
Jos Buttler, on 38, and Moeen Ali (4) were the not out batsmen with paceman Suranga Lakmal and spinners Dilruwan Perera, Malinda Pushpakumara and Akila Dananjaya all taking a wicket each.
Dananjaya, who is playing despite his bowling action being reported by the International Cricket Council in Galle last week, got the final wicket before lunch, of Rory Burns for 43.
Stokes, who batted at number five in his team's opening win last week, had been sent up the order following Moeen's twin failures at number three in Galle.
Off-spinner Perera successfully reviewed an lbw decision against Stokes after the on-field umpire had turned down an appeal.
Lakmal, who is leading the side in place of injured Dinesh Chandimal, had Keaton Jennings caught behind for one in the fifth over.
Root, who scored 35 and 3 in the first Test, was bowled by Pushpakumara in the 18th over for 14 and Burns soon followed as England slumped to 89 for 4.
Buttler then counter-attacked, hitting five boundaries with a mixture of sweeps and reverse sweeps as he reached 38 off 32 balls in an unbeaten stand of 31 runs with Moeen.