Brendon McCullum described New Zealand's agonising near miss against England as “heart-breaking” after Matt Prior and Monty Panesar somehow hung on for a draw at Eden Park.
The Kiwis were one wicket away from a first series victory over England since 1999, and only their second ever against them on home soil.
But Prior (110no) would not be denied, and number 11 Panesar - a veteran of another famous last stand from England, when they also held on with nine wickets down against Australia in 2009 - again did his bit.
McCullum, whose team will travel back to England in little more than a month for two more Tests against opponents he sees as "giants of world cricket", gave due credit to Prior for bailing out the tourists and salvaging a 0-0 drawn series at 315 for nine. His thoughts principally, though, were understandably with his own team - after pushing England to the brink on the back of opener Peter Fulton's centuries in each innings in this final Test.
"That's heartbreaking," said McCullum.
"We've played some brilliant cricket throughout the series, but especially in this Test, and dictated terms from day one.
"We gave it every chance to force a result but came up against a defiant England team who were hell-bent on ensuring they did not lose a Test for their country - and unfortunately we weren't able to get that one more wicket
"I'll make sure I go round all the lads. I'm incredibly proud of the way they've performed in this series and confronted one of the giants of world cricket."
New Zealand began the three-match series as rank outsiders, having been trounced 2-0 by world number ones South Africa at the start of this year.
"Obviously there's disappointment, but it's nice to know some progress has been made," added McCullum.
"That's why you play cricket - it's an unbelievable feeling.
"The last day has been incredible.
"It's everything you dream about when you are growing up, to be able to be in the park with your team-mates trying to bowl your team to a Test win.
"It's a great feeling. Unfortunately we weren't able to get it, but it was a magnificent Test match - and we played our part."
Prior had several moments of fortune in his 182-ball innings, which encompassed important stands with Ian Bell (75), Stuart Broad and finally Panesar.
His strangest escape came on 28 when he deflected a short ball from Neil Wagner down on to his stumps, only to see the bails stay intact.
McCullum joked that Prior must be a model citizen to have luck like that go his way. "I think Matty's lived pretty clean!" he said.
"There were twists and turns and half-chances - little things you look back on and think 'if only'.
"But I guess that all added to the drama. Take nothing away from the way Matt played - I thought it was an incredible innings, played under severe pressure.
"He stood up and showed why he's the player he is."
New Zealand never gave up hope, though, and fancied their chances when Panesar had to take guard with more than three overs still remaining. "Yes, of course we did," said McCullum.
"Kane (Williamson) had one ball to him, which he could easily have chopped on to the stumps.
"Then we had that last over with Trent (Boult), and I thought we were a red-hot chance.
"But they found a way out.
"We were one ball away from winning a Test match.
"We gave it a red-hot crack, and it didn't quite go our way."
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