Dunedin: The first Test between New Zealand and South Africa ended in a damp draw on Sunday when rain washed out a final day which had promised a tantalizing finish.
New Zealand was due to resume at 137-2, 264 runs short of its victory target after South Africa declared its second innings on the fourth day at 435-5 with an overall lead of 400.
To win, New Zealand needed to score 401 runs in what would have been the highest successful run chase in its Test history. Its previous best was the 324 it scored to beat Pakistan by five wickets in 1994.
There was some hope for the home side with Brendon McCullum, 58 not out, and Ross Taylor, 48 not out, still at the wicket and involved in a partnership which had already produced 82 runs. not out, still at the wicket and involved in a partnership which had already produced 82 runs.
But heavy rain which began overnight continued relentlessly throughout the day and gave no hope of play resuming. The entire first session was lost to rain which persisted into the afternoon, forcing umpires Aleem Dar of Pakistan and Billy Doctrove of the West Indies to abandon play at 2.30 pm local time without a ball being bowled.
"The weather was always going to be a factor," South Africa captain Graeme Smith said. "They took a chance with the weather and the weather ended up winning the day. That's the reality of playing over here."
The second match of the three-Test begins at Hamilton on Thursday and the final test will be played in Wellington from March 23.
All but 58 overs were lost to rain on the first day, but enough play was possible on the next three days — which were played in fine but mainly cool conditions at the world's most southerly Test ground — to raise hopes of a result on Sunday's final day.
The teams had been closely matched after the first innings in which New Zealand replied with 273 to South Africa's 238 to gain a 35-run lead.
South Africa had been 47-2 in its second innings, leading by only 12 runs, before a 200-run third-wicket partnership between Smith (115) and Jacques Kallis (113), and an unbeaten 105 by Jacques Rudolph gave it the upper hand.
New Zealand also lost two early wickets in its second innings and was 55-2 before McCullum and Taylor came together and survived for 98 minutes before stumps on the fourth day. Their partnership raised some hopes that New Zealand, ranked eighth in the world in Tests, might still be able to beat South Africa, which needs to sweep the series to replace England as the top-ranked Test nation.
That prospect steadily dwindled as rain saturated the outfield at the University Oval, reducing the number of overs remaining to New Zealand to score the 264 it still needed for victory.
Smith's 24th Test century, Kallis's 42nd and Rudolph's sixth provided the batting highlights of a match played on a wicket which gave up runs only grudgingly.
South Africa's 26-year-old right-armer Vernon Philander was the best bowler on show, taking 4-72 in the first innings and 1-29 in the second to finish with match figures of 5-101. Philander now has 35 wickets from only five Test matches at an average of 14.