The Black Caps deserve a heroes' welcome back into the country, after a "remarkable game" despite losing the Cricket World Cup final, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says.
The Kiwi team lost to England after the winner was decided on the contentious fine-print rule after both teams achieved the same amount of runs.
Despite the loss, Ardern congratulated the team on their efforts and said she would look into hosting an event to welcome them home.
She said: "I think probably like a lot of New Zealanders, I'm still feeling a bit traumatised [after the close match].
"It was an incredible game. I can't recall seeing a game like it and I think it will probably go down in history as being a remarkable game of cricket.
"But regardless of that final outcome, I just feel incredibly proud of the Black Caps and I hope every New Zealander does because they played remarkable cricket across the course of that tournament."
The team was due back to Auckland International Airport at 5am on Thursday.
Ardern said she was in talks with Auckland Mayor Phil Goff about a potential welcome home event.
"I did give Phil a call quite early this morning and had a bit of a chat. I think one of the key things for both of us was really getting a sense of what the Black Caps themselves would like.
Ardern said she watched most of the game, but missed a part in the middle. She said watching cricket was a favourite pastime of hers when she was young and she watched a lot of matches with her grandfather and dad.
She said she didn't want want to dwell on the 8-boundaries rule that ultimately decided the Black Caps' fate.
"There will probably be a lot of commentary on this game for a long time to come, but it won't change how proud I feel of our team," she said.
"They have my huge admiration and I'm sure I'm not the only Kiwi to feel that way. I think they'll be getting a heroes' welcome. They deserve it."
BDST: 1313 HRS, JUL 15, 2019