England openers Andrew Strauss and Jonathan Trott prepared for the opening test on 26 March by hitting tons against the Sri Lankan Development XI.
The duo retired on 100 and 101 respectively but Ian Bell's poor form continued as he fell for 14.
England ended the day 203 behind with the Sri Lankans still at the crease.
Trott backed his Warwickshire team-mate to recover. "It's swings and roundabouts, Ian Bell's had a fantastic 12 months," he told the BBC.
"I've played many years with Ian and seen him play many fine innings and seen him have one or two bad scores and then score big runs so he's capable of it and I'm certainly in his camp thinking he'll be scoring a lot of runs this series."
Bell has endured a difficult few months at the crease and followed his travails against Pakistan with a two-ball duck against the Sri Lankan Board XI in the opening match of the current tour.
His highest score this year is 39 in all competitions and his last half-century was in the one-day international against India at Lord's in September.
England missed the influence of rested bowlers James Anderson and Monty Panesar as the hosts reached 431-6 for the loss of one wicket on a flat pitch in Colombo before they were put into bat.
The Sri Lankan bowlers were attacked with similar gusto by Andy Flower's side after the mid-morning declaration as Strauss and Trott shared a stand worth 197.
Kevin Pietersen followed Bell back into the pavilion before Strauss called time on the innings with his team 159 runs in arrears.
After spraining an ankle tripping over a boundary rope before the opening tour date, Stuart Broad continued his recovery as he trapped Malinga Warnapura lbw for his fourth wicket of the match.