Pakistan's stand-in captain Azhar Ali has said his team had been 30 to 35 runs short of where they would have liked to have been at tea, suggesting that perhaps the subsequent collapse was sparked by a high required rate. Pakistan had needed 211 runs at the break, with 34 overs remaining in the match - meaning they effectively needed 6.2 runs an over to achieve the unlikely target. The three batsmen who fell soon after tea all perished playing attacking strokes.
"When we came out after lunch we thought that this pitch is still good enough - the ball is not doing a lot now," Azhar said. "We thought we can push the run rate up a bit. When the amount of overs is small and the target gets nearer, it's easier to push things harder. At tea we really wanted to get around 170-180, but we left 30-35 runs too much to get at the last session. We didn't get going. That 30-35 runs would have been helpful."
Though Azhar and Sami Aslam had batted sedately in their partnership - scoring at around two runs an over during the first 49 of 98 overs scheduled - Azhar said the plan had always been to attempt the target.
"Above 300 in the last innings is tough in any condition, but with the time lost to rain, this was probably only the fourth day of the Test match," Azhar said. "We thought 350-plus in a day is always difficult, but once you're 1-0 down, you want to make a result out of it. As a team we thought it'd be possible for us to chase. Even yesterday the wicket looked good. When we batted three overs it wasn't doing a lot. In the first innings also, the new ball did the damage. After that it was good. We just planned to go through the new ball and assess the situation as it comes to us."
Pakistan had been aggressive either side of tea, with top-order batsmen all attempting big shots, though not many boundaries were scored. They had even promoted Sarfraz Ahmed to No. 4 in the hopes he would spur the run rate, but he ultimately ran himself out for 19 off 21 balls. Azhar said that was the point at which Pakistan decided to abandon hopes of a win.
"Of course after we lost four wickets, and when we lost Sarfraz, we thought that it's over. The new ball was around the corner, so we didn't want our lower order to be exposed to that. In the end that did happen. Unfortunately we couldn't get a say. A draw wouldn't have been the result we wanted, but it would have been a little better than this - a loss.
"Credit to the New Zealand bowlers also, they kept bowling it in good areas. It was hard to get runs. Our minds were clear as to what to do, but unfortunately things didn't really work to plan."
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando