By Niall Anderson at the Basin Reserve
The Black Caps' hopes of reaching unprecedented heights have been washed away.
Only 12 overs of play were possible on the final day of the first test against Sri Lanka at the Basin Reserve in Wellington, with persistent rain seeing the match called a draw at 3.52pm.
A 2-0 series victory would have seen the Black Caps leap to second on the test world rankings – it's understood that would be an all-time high – but Sri Lanka's fightback scuppered that opportunity, and means the two-test series will be decided in Christchurch, starting on Boxing Day.
In the end, the draw was probably a fair result, despite the Black Caps having built a 296-run first innings lead. The pitch proved so docile on the final two days that they probably could have played until 2019 without getting a result, with Kusal Mendis (141 not out) and Angelo Mathews (120 not out) having remarkably few problems in their unbeaten stand of 274, and Sri Lanka finishing at 287-3.
Sri Lankan captain Dinesh Chandimal – padded up for over seven hours during the partnership – was ecstatic with his side's fight.
"We've especially shown a lot of character. It's not an easy task when the opposition leads by 300. Angelo and Kusal Mendis have done a really good job and they put up a really good partnership. At the same time they played for the team - that's the most important thing."
While frustrating for the Black Caps, they can take positives from the fact they were never a chance of losing the test, and their strong run at home continues – now six games unbeaten, and having lost just one of their last 12.
Black Caps captain Kane Williamson believed that his side could still win on day five, but credited Sri Lanka for not giving them a sniff.
"We still felt that if we were able to pick up a wicket, get into the lower order, then we were still a chance of a result, but it wasn't to be.
"We saw some real resilience from the Sri Lankan batters – they denied us for a long period of time. We didn't get the result we were after but that's one of the beauties of test cricket – two guys put their hand up and didn't give us an opportunity for a day."
The 54 minutes of play mustered on day five proved remarkably pointless, with both teams meandering along in the knowledge that rain was about to strike. Just before lunch it arrived, and with the forecast – and hopes of any result bar a draw - becoming increasingly bleak, the two sides shook hands, and sent the series to a decider.