Mills encouraged by individual performances
New Zealand captain Kyle Mills conceded his side was outplayed comprehensively in the second T20 in Pallekele, but was optimistic about their chances in the home summer and the World Twenty20, thanks to encouraging individual performances.
A severely-depleted New Zealand tied the ODI series, having secured an unlikely weather-affected win in Hambantota, and for Mills, that victory was enough to suggest a bright future for the side in the short term. Twenty-one-year-old Tom Latham was the protagonist of that chase, and Luke Ronchi and Anton Devcich have also proved useful.
New Zealand have two T20s scheduled before the World T20 in March, and they play West Indies and India at home over the next two months.
"Throughout the tour, we've had young men have some fine performances," Mills said. "There's no doubt about that. That's encouraging for New Zealand Cricket and our home summer. Where we let ourselves down a little bit was the consistency of the home performances. As soon as we become more consistent as individuals, we'll be a far better consistent team.
"Throughout the tour our spinners bowled really well. Nathan McCullum led the attack well and Anton Devcich stepped up in his first international tour. There definitely are positives - the young players stood up and it's really important that these guys have those consistent performances that we were after, when we get back to New Zealand."
Ronchi had had a poor limited-overs trip to England mid-year, where he debuted for New Zealand, though it was his second dig at international cricket. After an unsatisfying trip to Bangladesh as well, he finally made meaningful contributions with the bat, hitting a brisk 49 in the ODI win, and finishing the Twenty20 innings with a 34 not out.
"I'm delighted with the success Luke has had on this trip," Mills said. "He had a pretty tough tour in England for us, but we had a lot of faith in him as a cricketer, because he's a very skilful cricketer. It's just nice for us as players to see a fellow player have success and maybe he's found a spot there in the middle order."
Mills placed most blame on the batsmen, as New Zealand failed to finish their tour of the subcontinent brightly. They lost two wickets inside the first three overs, and could not establish a rhythm at the crease, eventually succumbing to a modest 142 for 7.
"Most T20 matches around the world, the runs come from the top four. We kept losing wickets throughout the whole innings, and we couldn't establish a decent partnership. We batted well towards the end of the innings, and we've done that well throughout the whole tour. When we keep losing wickets at the top, it's hard for us to build partnerships, and that's a key to winning matches. The one partnership of note was probably (between) Ronchi and (Nathan) McCullum towards the end."
New Zealand also reprieved Kusal Perera twice in the field, as he sped to a 31-ball fifty that effectively took the match away. He was dropped on 6 and on 39. Both were straightforward chances.
"The fielding was pretty poor tonight, from our high standard. We pride ourselves on our ability to read situations well in the field, but dropped catches - particularly early on, when you're trying to get wickets - doesn't help proceedings.
"With the ball at times, I thought we were not too bad. We pulled it back quite nicely. We were always chasing wickets, and when you're trying to get wickets, you tend to go for a few runs as well, but all three facets were pretty poor."
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here