By Niall Anderson at the Basin Reserve
Kane Williamson has seen a lot in his 352 games of international cricket, but even he had no answer for the record-breaking scenes that blocked the Black Caps' path to victory against Sri Lanka.
Williamson experienced one of his toughest challenges as captain in Sri Lanka's second innings, as an unbroken 274-run partnership between Kusal Mendis and Angelo Mathews denied the Black Caps what looked a surefire win, and caused him immense frustration.
The Sri Lankan resistance – becoming the first test side to go a whole day without losing a wicket in New Zealand – created serious headaches for Williamson. The Black Caps skipper had to manage the workloads of his seam bowlers, apply different bowling strategies and attempt an array of field settings – and in the end, it was all for naught.
But, with Mendis and Mathews playing superbly to rescue their side from a 296-run first innings deficit and claim a worthy draw, was there anything he could have done differently?
"Maybe everything," Williamson laughed. "I don't know. Everything we did didn't provide too many opportunities. We sat down and had a number of conversations with other senior players and said 'what's something else we can try?' We tried pretty much all of it.
"Very rarely do you go a whole day where there's not an opportunity – regardless of what you try. That's a credit to the way the two Sri Lankan batsmen played, to deny us for the whole day."
Despite the lack of success of his bowling attack, Williamson said he was happy with their efforts – pointing out how flat the Basin Reserve surface had become on day four and five.
"There wasn't much happening," contended Williamson.
"Nothing was carrying through to the keeper. We tried a number of short deliveries which we'd like to think might have brought about something foreign in terms of strokeplay, but it was very difficult.
"It's tough when there isn't some assistance. Not that you expect a lot, but whether it's turn or some variable bounce - you can apply some pressure in a way. It did flatten out a lot and made life fairly difficult."
Despite their second innings impotency with the ball, the Black Caps can still take plenty from the test – six of their top seven batsmen passed 40 – and their first innings performance – bowling Sri Lanka out for 282 – holds promise for the second test at Hagley Oval on Boxing Day, where more pace and bounce is expected in the wicket.
However, Sri Lanka will take heart from their second innings fight as well, with captain Dinesh Chandimal believing they can make quick improvements for the series decider.
"We have learned a lot of things from this game. Especially we have to make a good start when we're bowling or batting - that's one area that we've missed in this game. When we're batting we lost three early wickets in both innings, and when we were bowling we couldn't get early wickets. We've got a lot of youngsters in our side, so I'm sure they will learn."
They won't be the only ones with plenty of takeaways from the test, and the Black Caps will need to find the killer blow if they're to claim a fourth straight series win.