A 69 in the first innings, a match-flipping 242 not out in the second, and two outstanding catches won Kane Williamson the Man-of-the-Match award, as well as the top spot in ESPN Sportscenter's Plays. But plenty more words of praise were headed his way. He was not dismissed for fewer than 54 through the series, and having now become the quickest New Zealand batsman to 3,000 Test runs, may become his nation's best ever with the bat, Brendon McCullum said.
"It's hard to put this on his shoulders while the guy is so young, but I firmly believe Kane could go down as New Zealand's greatest ever batter," McCullum said. "He's a phenomenal talent and such a level-headed guy, who just thinks first and foremost about the team and how he can contribute. He's ticking off some amazing statistics along the way and he's doing it in quite a strong leadership position within our group as well.
"That speaks volumes for the guy at the age of 24, that he's held in that regard within the group. His batting in all three forms of the game is world class. He was batting in my backyard the other day against my boy. I said to my boy, 'In 10 years' time you're going to appreciate how good this experience was.' Kane's a phenomenal fellow and a gun player and we'll see a lot of him in the next few years."
Williamson had shown characteristic poise and control as he transformed New Zealand's poor outlook in Wellington into a position of strength, alongside BJ Watling. Focus and stoicism are among Williamson's greatest attributes, McCullum said.
"Kane's passionate, but he's level with his emotions. At times, he can be a little bit mistaken for not being passionate or caring - he just gets in his zone. But you don't fight that hard unless you care about something.
"He does have blood in his veins. He'll be in that dressing room now, enjoying being around his teammates and have a big smile on his face. He'll be trying to shove off all the accolades to everyone else, but he's got to sit with these ones."
The decision to declare 389 runs ahead was made with the intention of tempting Sri Lanka to pursue the target, McCullum said, particularly as the pitch remained good for batting. The ploy worked superbly, with six of Sri Lanka's top-eight batsmen falling to aggressive strokes. New Zealand had Angelo Mathews caught just before lunch, to set themselves up with a saunter to the finish.
"The two big wickets were Kumar Sangakkara and Angelo - both guys capable of winning games on their own," McCullum said. "To be able to get both of those guys was huge. At the lunch break, we knew we were a big sniff of being able to close out the game. The guys kept hanging tough and that got the job done. It was great to see Mark Craig get four wickets in the last innings of a Test match too, especially on a wicket that wasn't turning a great deal. It was an excellent effort to manufacture a win from nowhere, really."
McCullum said come-from-behind victories, like the one at the Basin Reserve, did wonders for his team's self-belief.
"In both batting and bowling, I think the confidence is starting to develop. We're starting to get guys getting big scores under pressure. Even if you are behind the game, you know that if one of those class players can get in, then we're going to be a big chance of being able to get out of trouble. Then we do have the bowlers who will get 20 wickets against most teams that we've come up against lately. Those two factors combine to build some confidence in the group."
Both New Zealand and Sri Lanka had severe issues with balls going out of shape in the Test. Seven balls were changed in all, and McCullum said many of those were seriously misshapen. "The balls were a long way out of shape. There's times when if it was a little bit out of shape and we'd try to get on with it, but when it becomes far from round, that was the time we threw it to the umpires and let them make the decision. When it's not round, it makes it difficult to swing the ball."