Sri Lanka’s stand-in captain Suranga Lakmal won the toss and decided to bat in the opening test of the two-match series against South Africa in Galle on Thursday.
The hosts’ regular captain Dinesh Chandimal has pleaded guilty to a disciplinary breach during the side’s second test against West Indies last month and has opted to sit out of the series.
The International Cricket Council is due to announce a verdict in the case soon.
Lakmal was the only paceman in the Sri Lankan side who went with the spin trio of Rangana Herath, Dilruwan Perera and Lakshan Sandakan.
Experienced batsman Dimuth Karunaratne was back to open the batting for the hosts after the left-hander missed the West Indies tour due to injury.
Dale Steyn returned to the South African team from injury, having last played a test in January.
The touring side included two spinners in their side in left-armers Tabraiz Shamsi and Keshav Maharaj.
South Africa: Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram, Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Faf du Plessis (captain), Quinton de Kock, Vernon Philander, Keshav Maharaj, Tabraiz Shamsi, Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn
Sri Lanka: Dimuth Karunaratne, Danushka Gunathilaka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Roshen Silva, Niroshan Dickwella, Dilruwan Perera, Rangana Herath, Suranga Lakmal (captain), Lakshan Sandakan