Debutant Ben Foakes led England's fightback with the bat as the tourists ended an eventful opening day of the Test series against Sri Lanka on 321-8 in Galle.

Handed his chance due to the absence of the injured Jonny Bairstow, ruled out due to an ankle injury sustained playing football, wicketkeeper-batsman Foakes reached stumps on 87 having faced 184 deliveries in hot and humid conditions.

The right-hander shared respective stands of 61 and 88 with Jos Buttler (38) and Sam Curran (48), helping the tourists recover following a chaotic morning session that saw them at one stage slump to 103-5.

Adil Rashid's late blitz of boundaries against the second new ball - the all-rounder hit four fours and cleared the rope twice in making 35 from 38 deliveries - further frustrated the flagging hosts, who missed late chances to dismiss Jack Leach (14 not out) before the close.

As has become common in the longest format of late, England's middle and lower order were forced to dig their team out of a sizeable hole.

After winning the toss and opting to bat, visiting skipper Joe Root was soon back out in the middle following the loss of two wickets inside three overs.

Suranga Lakmal had debutant opener Rory Burns caught down the leg-side for nine before removing Moeen Ali - continuing at number three in the order after his late promotion during the home series against India - with his next delivery, clean bowling the left-hander from around the wicket.

Root quickly got into his stride, striking five boundaries, but his desire to dominate proved his downfall, the right-hander missing a full ball after coming down the wicket to Rangana Herath, giving the left-arm spinner his 100th wicket at the venue in his Test swansong.

Left-handers Keaton Jennings - who made 46 - and Ben Stokes also perished trying to play positively before lunch, the former bowled by Dilruwan Perera (4-70) when trying to cut a delivery off his stumps while the latter perished to the same bowler attempting an ambitious sweep shot on 7.

From then on, however, Sri Lanka found wickets much harder to come by. They had to wait until the stroke of drinks midway through the second session to pick up a sixth, Buttler feathering a thin edge through to wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella off Perera's bowling.

Foakes found another able ally in Surrey team-mate Curran, the pair sprinkling in the odd controlled moment of aggression to complement an otherwise composed approach to batting that belied their lack of international experience.

The partnership was eventually broken when Curran was caught at first slip off Akila Dananjaya, with the aggressive Rashid also falling late on as he edged the impressive Perera behind.