With Tawanda Muyeye and Marcus O’Riordan opening the batting, Kent had just nine runs on the board before Muyeye tickled a Yasiru Rodrigo delivery behind to be out for 5 in the fourth over.
O’Riordan departed in the first over after lunch when he was trapped lbw by Lakshan, and Jack Leaning followed a short time later, struck on the pads by Madushan.
His dismissal brought about the Stevens-Linde union, the pair putting on 50 runs together in 11 overs and swelling their stand to 130 by tea.
Stevens raised his 34th first-class hundred for Kent – and 37th overall – from 96 balls after the interval, passing 13,000 first-class runs for the county he joined from his native Leicestershire nearly 18 years ago in the process.
Their stand was finally ended when Madushan beat Steven’s attempted cut to send his off stump cartwheeling.
Stevens had missed Kent’s drawn County Championship match with Yorkshire last week after struggling to shake off the effects of a pre-season hamstring problem while bowling through the early rounds.
“We know what Darren has done over the years, how good he is, but he’s not quite seemed his usual sparky self,” Kent head coach Matt Walker told KentOnline before the first fixture in a six-match touring schedule for the Sri Lanka side, which will take on other counties through May.
“I think he’s found it tough these last three weeks, bowling on those wickets, and I think it was the right change to freshen it up and to give Darren a bit of time to get back to where he wants to get to.
“He’s not far away at all. Obviously when you leave Darren Stevens out the team, people’s eyes open wide because everyone knows what he’s done over the years.”
It is not the first time Stevens has bounced back with an innings of note. In 2019, having been told that Kent would not be renewing his contract, he scored a career-best 237 off 225 balls and took seven wickets – including 5 for 20 in the second innings – against Yorkshire in the penultimate match of the season, prompting a swift re-negotiation of terms.
He has another double-century to his name, scoring 205 not out against Lancashire in 2013 when he was named Kent’s best player, bowler and batter of the year.
Meanwhile, South African allrounder Linde – who joined Kent on a two-year, multi-format deal in January – reached his ton from 133 deliveries, with 10 fours and two sixes, before he was caught in the cordon trying to reverse-sweep legspinner Ashen Bandara.
Debutant Billy Mead and Hamidullah Qadri saw the hosts through to stumps without further loss, closing on 15 not out and 19 not out respectively.