The hosts suffered regular batting collapses during the recently-concluded Test series, which Sri Lanka won 2-0, and showed no improvement after the change in formats.
However, Zimbabwe could at least point to tricky conditions in this instance.
Heavy rains fell over the weekend, and when Zimbabwe lost the toss and were asked to bat on Monday morning, their openers emerged under cloudy skies that provided assistance for the seam bowlers.
The collapse began in just the fourth over, when Suranga Lakmal had both Brian Chari and Craig Ervine caught at second slip in the space of three deliveries, and when Sikandar Raza Butt fell to Nuwan Kulasekara in the next over, the hosts were 14 for three.
Sean Williams was then bamboozled by Sachith Pathirana’s left-arm spin and was stumped by Niroshan Dickwella, before Nuwan Pradeep dismissed Chamu Chibhabha and Elton Chigumbura in successive overs to leave Zimbabwe 50 for six.
As in the Test series, it was left to Zimbabwe’s lower order to repair the damage.
Wicketkeeper-batsman Peter Moor struck a polished 47 and added 55 for the seventh wicket with Graeme Cremer, and once Moor was trapped lbw by Nuwan Kulasekara, Cremer marshalled the tail to good effect.
The Zimbabwe captain put on 31 for the eighth wicket with Donald Tiripano, who made 19, and was left stranded on 31 not out when No. 11 Tinashe Panyangara attempted one big shot too many.
Panyangara sliced a delivery off Asela Gunaratne to cover to give the allrounder figures of 3 for 21 in 6.3 overs, while Kulasekara, Lakmal and Pradeep all finished with two wickets.
The triangular series also includes the West Indies, who will take on Sri Lanka at the same venue on Wednesday.
Original source: Misfiring Zimbabwe bowled out for 154