New Zealand struggled to a modest 120-7 off their 20 overs before Sri Lanka were bowled out for just 92.
On a day of tough batting and bowling conditions, only two sixes were hit in the entire match, which was hardly the kind of advertisement the International Cricket Council (ICC) would have wanted.
Saturday's match and a second on Sunday are the first cricket games on US soil between two ICC full members.
Only two Sri Lankan batsmen managed to adapt to the conditions with skipper Kumar Sangakkara making 17 and Angelo Mathews top-scoring with 27 before the 2009 World Twenty20 runners-up lost their last six wickets for just 30 runs.
Experienced medium pacer Scott Styris did the damage with 3-10 off three overs.Styris said: "It wasn't too bad, this wicket suited me."
Ross Taylor top-scored for New Zealand with 27 off 30 balls with skipper Daniel Vettori contributing 21.
For Sri Lanka, spinner Ajantha Mendis starred with the ball, taking 2-18 off his four overs.
Vettori admitted his team's batting had been a worry.
"It wasn't much of a total, but we bowled well. We bowl well on these wickets, and the big boundary helped us too, you can't just hit a couple of sixes any time."
Sangakkara praised the Kiwis.
"They got a great start, they pushed us back in the first six overs, and New Zealand were a bit more disciplined than us, both with the bat in the field."