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England captain Alastair Cook acknowledged New Zealand as moral winners of their drawn series on Tuesday, saying the David and Goliath battle had definitely gone David's way.
England started the series ranked second in the world to New Zealand's eighth placing. Even though none of the three Tests produced a result, New Zealand were the dominant side in two of them.
"They had the best of the first match, we had the best of the second Test match and they've outplayed us here, but at no stage did we underestimate them," Cook said after the dramatic end to the third Test.
The first two drawn Tests were both abbreviated by rain, but with fine weather throughout the five days in Auckland the deciding match went down to the wire.
In a desperate final session, England were down to their last pair for 19 balls but Matt Prior, who made 110, and Monty Panesar held on for the draw.
Panesar narrowly missed playing-on with the first ball he faced and later almost ran himself out when he dived well short of his ground on a quick single to get off strike.
England also counted their luck at one point when the ball hit Prior's stumps but failed to dislodge the bails.
However, what mattered for England was that he survived.
"There's a huge amount of relief," Cook said when stumps were drawn.
"We've had to fight over these five days. New Zealand have outplayed us in this game but I can be very proud of the English guys led by Matty Prior and Ian Bell, (who) were fantastic.
"The never say die attitude and that fight you need in Test cricket, we showed a lot of that in this series."
The fighting spirit was no better expressed than by the record effort of Stuart Broad as England batted for survival in their second innings.
He went 102 minutes without scoring, one minute more than the previous scoreless record set by New Zealand's Geoff Allott against South Africa 14 years ago.
Cook said the one consolation for England was that despite being outplayed they proved they were a difficult side to beat.
"If we're being honest we didn't play as well as we'd have liked, but that should not detract from how well New Zealand played," he said.
"They put us under a huge amount of pressure but I'm proud to say we stood up to it and just about fought through."