A mixture of heavy rain and watchful Sri Lankan batting ensured England's return to the Test arena for the first time since their Ashes glory was a world away from their Sydney celebrations.
In January, Andrew Strauss' men were basking in Australian sun and a third innings victory in five matches.
On day one of the first npower Test in Cardiff, they were kept off the field until 3.30pm by rain and then frustrated by half-centuries from openers Tillakaratne Dilshan and Tharanga Paranavitana.
The duo put on a stand of 93 before Graeme Swann removed the skipper for 50, then Kumar Sangakkara fell for 11 to a marginal caught-behind verdict on review.
At the close of play, with just 48 overs possible, the tourists were 133 for two.
Sri Lanka won the toss and chose to bat only for James Anderson to beat Paranavitana outside off with the first ball of the match. Stuart Broad was a little slower off the mark and his wayward first over went for 11, including a first boundary for each batsman.
Anderson found some swing to Paranavitana in his next over, with a stifled lbw appeal among a good maiden.
Anderson continued to impress with the new ball, moving one extravagantly off the pitch then finding the edge of Dilshan's bat, though the ball fell short of Alastair Cook at third slip.
Broad then struck Paranavitana in the chest with one that lifted sharply but the opener responded by striking the next ball to the mid-off boundary.
Despite not looking completely comfortable the Sri Lankan pair moved to 20 with a quick single.
Chris Tremlett, playing his first home Test since August 2007, was given his first chance in place of Broad and cramped up Paranavitana with his third ball, which was chopped uncomfortably close to off stump.
Dilshan thrashed wildly at Anderson immediately after picking up his 4,000th Test run but England's attack were allowing too many leaves.
Anderson, whose first seven-over spell cost just seven runs, thought he had Paranavitana caught behind but it was pad rather than bat.
Dilshan carved the returning Broad over point for his second four in the 15th over as Sri Lanka reached tea on 35 for no wicket.
After a circumspect first session, Dilshan opened his shoulders after the break.
He drove Broad for four through the covers in the first over back, then added two more boundaries off Anderson.
The first was a thick edge but the second a full-blooded cut to the ropes.
The runs continued to come with more ease than before and the score moved to 50 in the 20th over.
England's pace trio all had second spells and although there was the occasional edge, none looked like carrying to hands.
Tremlett looked the most likely wicket-taker, finding some extra bounce and rapping Dilshan on the glove.
Spinner Swann was summoned in the 26th over but his knack for striking in his first over was absent on this occasion.
Tremlett had a decent leg-before shout turned down after trapping Paranavitana in the crease but England rightly opted not to use a referral.
The Hampshire paceman continued to cause problems but a combination of luck and skill saw the Sri Lankans press on and a comfortable single saw Dilshan to his 50 off 92 balls.
It was the skipper's last run as he perished to Swann, cutting against the spin and playing on with the stand at 93.
Sangakkara got off the mark with an elegant four off Anderson but he was sent back in controversial circumstances for just 11.
Anderson was the bowler and went up for a caught behind appeal that was turned down by Aleem Dar.
England successfully overturned the decision despite replays being inconclusive, though technology later suggested there had been the thinnest of edges.
Paranavitana collected successive fours off Tremlett as he moved beyond 50 with a flourish at odds with the stoic nature of his innings.
At stumps, Paranavitana was 58 not out from 154 balls and Mahela Jayawardene was unbeaten on four.