We needed to bat more positively - McCullum
New Zealand opener Brendon McCullum believed an early burst of wickets and tight bowling in the afternoon session from Sri Lanka's spinners cornered the visitors into reticence on day one, despite having suggested they would target Sri Lanka's bowling before the match. The captain Ross Taylor had said his side would look to employ a belligerent approach against spin in the first Test, but New Zealand were cautious throughout much of their innings, scoring at only 2.66 in the 82.5 overs they faced.
Shaminda Eranga dismissed Martin Guptill and Kane Willamson in the sixth over, before Taylor fell to Nuwan Kulasekara in the ninth to leave New Zealand at 40 for 3, leaving McCullum and Daniel Flynn little choice but to rebuild steadily. Their partnership of 90 - New Zealand's highest of the day - came in 198 deliveries, before scoring almost ground to a standstill in the second session after McCullum departed.
"Our mindset was still very much being aware of the fact that the ball was turning, and the game situation as well played on our minds as we were 3 for 60 when spin came on," McCullum said at the end of the day's play. "Until my dismissal we were going pretty well. At that point Rangana Herath, who is a very good bowler, managed to seize the initiative and prize out some wickets from us. They probably looked up at the scoreboard after I got out and saw an opportunity where it was pretty delicately poised and I think they stepped up really well during that stage and put a lot of pressure on."
Flynn and James Franklin progressed at less than a run an over during their 13-over association, with Franklin making 3 from 43 deliveries. None of New Zealand's batsmen who made more than a dozen runs had a strike rate of more than 60, and the highest economy rate among the Sri Lanka's bowlers was 3.66 for Angelo Mathews, who only delivered three overs.
"From our point of view, when we are under pressure, we probably need to be more positive and grab the situation rather than let the opposition dictate terms," McCullum said. "I thought Daniel and myself were efficient against them. We were picking them up nicely and attacking the balls that they did miss on. We were putting them under pressure for periods of time, we just weren't able to do that for long enough."
Herath and Randiv bowled 51 overs between them for 127 runs, inducing plenty of turn from the Galle pitch despite it being the first day of the Test. Randiv was instrumental in subduing Flynn and Franklin during their partnership, as he spun it sharply away from both left handers from around the wicket, and Herath finished the innings with 5 wickets for 65 - his fourth five-wicket haul in as many matches at the venue. McCullum however, did not fault the surface for a New Zealand batting performance he described as disappointing.
"Absolutely no blame on the pitch. At Galle when you win the toss and bat first, you're after a total in excess of 400. We weren't able to do that today, but I thought the pitch was good. It turned a lot more than we probably anticipated it would on day one of a Test match, but that's what you expect when you come over to the subcontinent.
"It didn't turn and bite, it was slow turn and we expect that that turn will become quicker as the Test goes on and we've got Jeetan and a couple of other guys who can bowl spin. With our seamers, our ability to reverse swing the ball, which we saw from some of their guys today, will probably be our main weapon of attack."
The first Test began just five days after the limited-overs leg of the tour finished, but McCullum said the lack of time for a warm-up match had not affected New Zealand's batting greatly.
"In this day and age you get used to having to chop and change between various formats. Over half our squad have been at home playing four-day cricket as well, so they're very well prepared. The rest of us are pretty adaptable in terms of having to change between formats."
New Zealand picked three seam bowlers in their attack, and will rely on wickets with the new ball to prevent Sri Lanka from taking a first-innings lead. Tim Southee and Trent Boult swung the ball considerably in five overs near the close of day one, with Southee removing debutant Dimuth Karunaratne for a duck with a hooping inswinger.
"We've got a big first hour in the morning to try and expose the Sri Lankan middle order and if we can do that, today's misfortune will be a little bit easier to handle," McCullum said.
Andrew Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent in Sri Lanka