The Black Caps, looking to make the five-match series all square at 1-1, were in sight of a morale-boosting win chasing a revised target of 160 off 23 overs in a rain-affected clash here at Edgbaston.
At the end of 19 overs they were 127 for two, with dynamic opening batsman Brendon McCullum 60 not out.
Providing they didn't lose another wicket, they needed just seven runs off the 20th over -- the minimum required to constititute a match -- for victory.
But instead Australian umpire Steve Davis and English colleague Ian Gould took the players off in a match already interrupted and delayed by rain.
England had taken a slow 83 minutes to bowl their 19 overs and more than an hour to deliver their first 14 - ICC regulations stipulate a minimum of 14.28 per hour.
It was hard to view England's six bowling changes in the first 11 overs and repeated conferences between the start of each over as anything other than time-wasting tactics.
But former India fast bowler Srinath told reporters: "England were not in breach of the over-rate. They had enough allowances. There were a few referrals to the third umpire and injuries."
Frustrated New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori, whose side have yet to win a major interntional on this tour, said Davis and Gould should have taken a tougher line with England.
However, he admitted he might have acted in a similar way to opposing captain Paul Collingwood had their roles been reversed.
"I think England's over-rate was particularly slow but I think if we were in that situation we would do the same thing," he said. "You just need the umpires to take control of the game and dictate the play," left-arm spinner Vettori added.
"There was obviously a bit of gamesmanship going on. You can't attack anyone for that but you need constant monitoring of the over-rate."
Vettori, whose side were beaten 2-0 in a three-Test campaign by England earlier this tour and lost Friday's lone Twenty20 by nine wickets before suffering a 114-run thrashing in last weekend's opening one-dayer, said this result also felt like a defeat.
"I think this is a game we would have won had we been able to play the allotted overs or even get through that 20th over.
"There's a sense of disappointment in the dressing room, it's almost like a loss. It's been a tough tour."
Srinath, while sympathising as a former player, said: "I understand that coming from Daniel Vettori but I think the umpires did a commendable job.
"The umpires have got to be consistent," he added. "I would say the umpires did a commendable job. It was a brave decision by the umpires, (to end the game when they did).
"It wasn't easy to come off and as soon as they were walking back to the pavilion it rained heavily."
Despite the start of the match being delayed by rain, before England's innings was interrupted by another shower, there was no reduction in the standard 30-minute break between innings in a bid to 'beat' the weather.
"That is very much within the regulations," said Srinath. "You can't do anything about it.
"You can only use common-sense when there is any ambiguity. The half-hour can only become 20 minutes if the side bowling first have taken too long to bowl their overs."
Collingwood said he'd been taken aback by the time between innings. "To have a 30 minute break was surprising.
"We were ready to go out 10 or 15 minutes (after our innings). It's a regulation but we need to look at it."
And the Durham all-rounder was adamant he hadn't deliberately slowed down the game.
"Our over-rate was not a tactic. We were chasing the ball a lot and I didn't realise it was that slow."