New Zealand knew Angelo Mathews stood between them and a series-clinching victory as the game rushed to its conclusion at Bay Oval yesterday.
The Sri Lankan skipper kept his team alive as the target of 295 got closer, and when he became Matt Henry's fifth victim, caught adroitly on 95 by Henry Nicholls on the mid-wicket fence, the game was up for the tourists.
"We always knew we had to get Mathews," Henry said. "The main process was to deny them boundaries but always attack to take wickets and put a halt to the runs."
The match was also New Zealand's first win in three ODI outings at the ground.
Henry talked down his contribution to the 3-1 series victory.
"It's a great feeling," he said of his 13 wickets in three games. "But it always comes in partnerships.
"Even though I was fortunate to get rewards, the guy at the other end was going at three an over. If you're keeping pressure on at both ends, something's got to give."
The Bay Oval pitch wasn't easy for batsmen, especially when they were starting out and getting a feel for the conditions.
However, Henry felt once they were "in", it became easier to accumulate runs on the large outfield. Quality fielding became an important factor, and New Zealand are a slick outfit right now.
"That's something we pride ourselves on," Henry said. "One thing you can control is your fielding and it's something we work hard on and like to keep a high standard."
Sri Lankan batsman Lahiru Thirimanne admitted his team had misread the pitch and in hindsight would have played another spinner instead of a seamer.
"But it didn't matter because we could still have won the match," Thirimanne said.
"The wicket played really well. Up front we lost a couple of wickets, which was a big disadvantage. Angelo batted really well but we just couldn't do it in the end."