"I've not had time to really sit down and think about the day, but we tried lots of different things out there to dislodge Astle and Morrison," the England captain said. "We had a great opportunity to win and didn't take it. But it only needed one ball and it was a case of staying patient and relaxed and hoping for that moment.
"Of course they both played really well. It's disappointing and frustrating but in the end New Zealand deserved to draw because we couldn't get that last wicket. But I would reject any suggestion that they have won some sort of moral victory."
Since the triumphant tour of Australia in 1986-87, when Mike Gatting's side pulled off an unexpected Ashes win, England have now won just five Tests out of 41 played overseas, and come home with just one series victory, against New Zealand in 1991-92.
"On the first morning I felt that we bowled as poorly as I can remember an England team doing," Atherton added. "But when your opponents get almost 400 in their first innings you have to play some decent cricket to come back in the way we did and to be so close to winning the match."
Dominic Cork, England's No 1 bowler, sent down only nine overs on the last day but Atherton defended that decision, saying: "The pitch was dead. There was no seam movement and because it was so arid and dry there was also not very much conventional swing. I felt that reverse swing was the best way to get a wicket and that is why Darren Gough bowled far more overs. Alan Mullally also got into a good rhythm."
Atherton admitted that he did think of having a bowl himself. "It did cross my mind at one point, but I did not think my back was up to it," he said.
The England coach, David Lloyd, added: "We tried everything. We changed the bowlers around, we changed the field, we went over and around the wicket but we just weren't good enough to clinch it."Reuse content