South Africa passed up the opportunity to set a world-record fourth-innings run chase in an anticlimatic end to the thrilling first Test against India in Johannesburg on Sunday.
Set 458 to win, Graeme Smith’s side were cruising to an unlikely victory when A B de Villiers and Faf du Plessis shared a stand of 205 for the fifth wicket to take them to within 60 runs of their target. But the jitters set in after De Villiers played on to Ishant Sharma for 103, with J P Duminy falling soon afterwards.
Du Plessis and Vernon Philander then guided South Africa past the previous fourth innings record total of 418, set by West Indies against Australia in 2003, to take them within 16 runs of victory before the former was run out by a direct hit.
Despite being on the cusp of history, Philander and Dale Steyn opted to block out for a draw, and though Steyn smashed the final ball for six, play ended with South Africa on 450 for 7.
The Proteas then left the Wanderers field to boos from the home supporters but, with only the Boxing Day Test in Durban to come in the two-match series, captain Smith said it was more important that they did not lose.
“We showed a lot of mental strength not to fade away,” he said. “We played it beautifully until Faf got run out. You have to respect the decision of the guys in the middle.
“Chasing it down would have been incredible. It went down to the last hour, which was great for Test cricket.
“At the start of the day we wanted to make sure we went to Durban with a chance of winning the series.”