Australia rolled Sri Lanka all out for 117 on the opening day of the first Test in Kandy, before rain halted its chances of building a first-innings lead.

No fewer than 12 wickets fell in the first two sessions as Sri Lanka won the toss but then failed to build any momentum with the bat, although the cheap removal of Australia's openers will have raised some cheer in the dressing room before the touring team closed on 66-2.

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Captain Steve Smith (28) and Usman Khawaja (25) had looked well set before tea, but persistent drizzle means it will have to resume after a night's rest.

Debutant Dhananjaya de Silva top scored with just 24 for the home team and the batting order still looks flimsy after the loss of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara.

Sri Lanka's paltry score was its lowest first-innings total in Tests against Australia, its top three setting the tone as the returning Mitchell Starc had Dimuth Karunaratne lbw for five in the fifth over before Josh Hazlewood accounted for Kusal Mendis (8) and Kaushal Silva (4).

Hazlewood ended the day with impressive figures of 3-21, having also removed Dinesh Chandimal (15).

Nathan Lyon trumped his team-mate, however, with 3-12. The off-spinner took two wickets in the first over after lunch to spark a collapse from 84-5 to 117 all out.

Eyeing a big lead, Australia was quickly pegged back when David Warner failed to make good on a pre-match promise to add patience to his game, loosely driving at a Nuwan Pradeep (1-3) delivery and nicking onto leg stump for a five-ball duck.

Fellow opener Joe Burns (3) was bowled by the ever-wily Rangana Herath, who got one to go straight on and put worries in the Australian camp at 7-2, but Smith and Khawaja quickly settled down some feverish fielders before the rain quelled them further.