Sri Lanka 486 and 214 for 9 dec drew with South Africa 376 and 203 for 3 (Smith 74, Kallis 52*)

Graeme Smith showed the way with a defiant knock © AFP

Graeme Smith, restored to the top of the order after his recovery from a virus, led South Africa's fight for survival on the final day of the first Test with a 209-ball 74. His efforts, coupled with some solid resistance from Jacques Kallis (52 not out) and Jacques Rudolph (27 not out), helped South Africa finish on 203 for 3 to secure a draw.

The ease with which South Africa drew the game made a mockery of the pre-match predictions - from the curator, captains and media - that the pitch would not last the distance. The ball occasionally spun viciously but it did so very, very slowly. South Africa's top order, well-organised, patient and determined, were able to survive the odd danger-ball from Sri Lanka's quintet of spinners and soon after tea, the large weekend crowd started to lose hope.

Just prior to tea, their spirits had been lifted by the bizarre departure of Smith, who toed the ball onto his stumps as he frantically tried to kick it away from them (135 for 3). But Kallis, fortunate to survive a leg-before appeal on 34, stood firm afterwards with Rudolph.

The previous evening, Rudolph had talked optimistically about a possible win, but history suggested otherwise: there has only ever been one successful last-innings run chase over 300 in Sri Lanka, and that was the target of 326 achieved by Arjuna Ranatunga's team against Zimbabwe in 1997-98 at the Sinhalese Sports Club - a far flatter pitch than this Galle surface. South Africa now travel to Colombo for the second Test starting on Wednesday, where they can look forward to a pitch offering more pace and bounce for their quick bowlers.

But South Africa's approach on this day disproved what Rudolph had said. In the morning session, only 49 runs were chiselled out in 30 overs, while Smith went about laying the foundations for a possible match-saving rearguard. Clearly, a win had been ruled out and South Africa instead focused on survival.

Sri Lanka picked up just one wicket during the two-hour morning session as Boeta Dippenaar (11), nudging forward to Muttiah Muralitharan, popped up a bat-pad catch (34 for 1). There were no dropped chances but a couple of nervous moments after confident lbw appeals from Sanath Jayasuriya, particularly one of van Jaarsveld on nought. van Jaarsveld was perilously close to being adjudged leg-before, but Daryl Harper's not-out decision was vindicated by television replays that showed the ball had pitched outside leg.

There was one further moment of controversy before the break. Sri Lanka were convinced Upul Chandana had caught and bowled Smith, on 32, off a thick inside edge onto his boot. The decision was referred to the television umpire, Tyronne Wijewardene, who, quite correctly, gave the benefit of doubt to Smith after several inconclusive replays were unable to disprove that the ball had touched the ground before ballooning up off his boot.

After lunch, Sri Lanka, who needed to snatch every opportunity offered, were left cursing after Thilan Samaraweera shelled a sharp chance to his left at slip off van Jaarsveld on 18. Eventually, though, Sri Lanka broke through courtesy of a straighter ball from Tillakaratne Dilshan that van Jaarsveld tried to nurdle to leg (98 for 2). But with few deliveries exploding off the surface, and Murali's doosra unavailable, the only other wicket was Smith's own goal.