Skipper Hashan Tillakaratne was ruing the missed chance of winning his first series as Sri Lanka's test captain.
"We came close to forcing a result, but allowed things to drift away," the veteran batsman said yesterday, a day after the after the two-test series against New Zealand ended in a 0-0 tie.
Sri Lanka sensed victory Wednesday after offspinner Muttiah Muralitharan engineered a dramatic New Zealand collapse on the final day, but a defiant eight-wicket partnership between Robbie Hart and Paul Wiseman used some precious time.
The Sri Lankan batsmen then refused to chase a challenging total of 191 from 38 overs and killed the chances of a thrilling finish.
Sri Lanka gave up the chase in the fourth over after the dismissal of former skipper Sanath Jayasuriya and ambled to 72 for one in 30 overs, ensuring a draw.
Tillakaratne said it was the prolonged partnership between Hart and Wiseman that took the game away from Sri Lanka's reach. The two defended stoutly against the Sri Lankan spinners and were dismissed only after left-arm pacer Chaminda Vaas was brought back into the attack.
The captain acknowledged he should have reintroduced the pace bowlers earlier instead of allowing the game to drift away with the spinners unable to make a breakthrough.
"Holding the pacers back now seems to be a mistake, but Muralitharan was bowling so well that I didn't want to take him off," he said. "It was he who had wiped out the middle order and always seemed on brink of taking another wicket."
He had reason. Muralitharan snared five wickets and boosted his career total to 450 test wickets.