Australia v South Africa, 2nd Test, Adelaide, 5th day November 26, 2012

Can South Africa draw inspiration?

South Africa have still not lost a Test away from home since February 2010 but Graeme Smith knows his side have been well below their best in Australia

There is supposed to be some awkwardness in celebrating a draw, even a hard-scrapped one. Think Australia at Old Trafford in the Ashes in 2005, England in South Africa twice in 2009-10 and New Zealand against South Africa in Wellington earlier this year. When events deny the obvious team a win they deserve, the other side's relief and joy can be tinged with some embarrassment.

Now consider draws that are as good as South Africa's epic in Adelaide. After conceding a run-rate of more than five to the over in the first innings, they batted at a rate of barely one an over to save the match.

It means that South Africa have still not lost a Test match away from home since February 2010. They still have a chance to beat Australia in Australia for a second time and even if all they manage is a draw they will still be the No.1 ranked Test team in the world. They are joyful and relieved but if Graeme Smith's hard expression could talk, a touch embarrassed too.

"We haven't played very well," he said grimly. If you eliminate the almighty deep-digging at the end, it is informative to see the captain has a firm grip on the overall state of the performance. South Africa were loose with the ball on the first day and wasteful with the bat in parts of their first innings. Their team balance is skewed as they continue to carry an underperforming Jacques Rudolph and continually find themselves a bowler short.

Smith seems to understand that getting out of danger, even in such heroic fashion, should not allow those cracks to be papered over. All it does is fulfil the team management's desire that the side fights hard and proves that South Africa can play the way the ranking suggests they should.

In Jacques Kallis alone, South Africa showed enough character to fill a film studio. Knowing he would have to bat for the better part of two sessions, Kallis put his hamstring injury aside for the sake of the team and Faf du Plessis, the debutant who would lean on him.

Greats of the game are remembered for things like this. Statistics and individual milestones are what people can look up and marvel at, but the memory of a wincing, limping but straight-faced Kallis doing what he can for his country is something no number can ever convey.

Dale Steyn's duck certainly cannot tell how valuable the 36 minutes he spent protecting Morne Morkel and Imran Tahir were. Perhaps AB de Villiers' 33 off 220 balls is accurate in revealing how laboured his innings was but it also hints at the patience he had to show. As far as heart goes, what South Africa lacked in Brisbane, they found only on the final day in Adelaide when bloody-mindedness took over.

Mickey Arthur said after the Gabba Test that he does not believe in momentum and didn't think Australia would take any massive advantage into Adelaide. By implication, he probably also doesn't think South Africa will have the upper hand going into the Perth Test.

Smith agreed with that and qualified what this resistance had done was give his team on a clean slate. "Both teams will be battered and bruised. We left a lot out there but we are level pegging going to Perth. We have five days left to create something special and that is what we were fighting for. We haven't been at our best, but we haven't been beaten."

If it stays that way, South Africa will be able to go home with the Test mace still in hand and may look back on Adelaide as a draw to be cherished.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent