Faf Du Plessis played a wonderful knock, but could not take South Africa to a world record win against India. Reuters

The first Test match between South Africa and India will go down in the history books as a draw. But calling this match, this truly unbelievable, gripping thank-God-for-Test-cricket match just a draw would be tantamount to calling sport just a form of pastime.

In five gripping, attritional, high-quality, just plain outstanding day of ding-dong Test match cricket, both sides flirted, had a whiff, got a touch of a victory, but almost fittingly the Gods of cricket decided to call this match a draw, knowing consigning one of these two teams to a loss would be a crime of the highest order.

At the start of the final day of the first Test, there looked like being only two possible results - a draw and a win for India, the latter being the most likely.

However, South Africa are not the best Test side in the world for no reason. In walked in Jacques Kallis, playing an aggressive innings of 34 from just 37 balls, and raising those heartbeats in the Indian camp, before a poor lbw decision saw him walking back.

Heave a sigh of relief MS Dhoni and the bowlers did, with the away side back to zoning in on completing a momentous victory.

But those heartbeats were raised back to stratospheric heights soon enough as AB De Villiers, one of the best finishers in the game of cricket, walked in, and along with Faf Du Plessis, put on a truly marvellous, I-can't-believe-this-is-happening partnership of 205 runs for the fifth wicket to not just take the game out of India's grasp, but nearly, oh so tantalisingly, grip it with both hands.

De Villiers (103, 168b, 12x4) and Du Plessis (134, 309b, 15x4) nearly led South Africa to a world record chase of 458 runs on day 5 at the Wanderers, leaving an Indian side puzzled, broken and without a clue, before a late, late twist saw the two sides share honours, as the Proteas, finishing on 450 for seven, fell eight runs short of their target, and India three wicket adrift of theirs.

It was all going to plan for India from the off - dismissing Alviro Petersen, played-on off Mohammed Shami, South Africa's best batsman on Day 4, early on and seemingly beginning that wicket-climb towards Wanderers satisfaction.

Kallis played a belligerent little knock, looking determined to put behind his recent bad form, which was exacerbated by a golden duck in the first innings, and put a rather large cat amongst the India pigeons.

However, a ball that darted in from Zaheer Khan, struck him on the pads in front of the wicket, with the umpire raising his finger - replays, though, showed a big enough inside edge, but with no DRS there was little Kallis could do but trudge back into the pavilion.

At that point the feeling of an India victory was only increasing, heightened by those relatively early wickets, and with South Africa only on 197 for four, a long way away from the target.

But that win would slowly but surely look so far away that even a high-powered telescope would not be able to spot it. De Villiers and Du Plessis were just monumental, never letting the runs dry up, picking up the singles at will, and putting away the bad balls almost every single time, while rarely being troubled by the bowlers, even if there were the inevitable edges that just evaded the fielders here and there.

The more desperate the India bowlers became, the better the two Proteas batsmen looked. The oh-no-we-might-lose-this-game sweat becoming more and more visible amongst the Indian camp, while this-could-just-be-the-victory-of-our-lives sweat oozed out of Du Plessis and De Villiers.

The first two sessions saw 98 runs, for two wickets, and 94 runs, without a single wicket, scored by the South Africans, and with it the blocks, immense, unbeatable blocks were being built of a stunning victory.

Both Du Plessis, first, and De Villiers completed their centuries, and just when a win for the home side looked like a foregone conclusion, that much-maligned-but-tremendous-in-this-Test Ishant Sharma came in and bowled De Villiers to keep the match alive.

South Africa needed 58 runs in the last hour of play at that point, with the one-for-the-ages-and-then-some match taking another twist with the wicket of JP Duminy, castled by Mohammed Shami in the next over.

That brought in Vernon Philander, the man, who along with Du Plessis took South Africa to anywhere near India's first innings total in the previous innings, and the South Africa pacer looked comfortable in the middle yet again, with the home side needing another 40 runs at less than six an over.

It was touch-and-go now, a wicket for India and they go right into the tail, that included a crocked Morne Morkel; but singles and the odd boundary for South Africa and a world record win was there to be grabbed.

Philander was tremendous, while the nerveless Du Plessis, with ice running through his entire body, and in a zone which has not even been witnessed by the "Men in Black" amongst "superior" aliens, was supreme in his control over the chase, as the target came down to 28 in the final five remaining overs, and then 16 in 20 deliveries, before the final twist came the way of a run out of Du Plessis, courtesy a direct hit from Ajinkya Rahane, his second in the innings.

Now, with Philander (25 n.o., 37b, 3x4) the senior partner, and Steyn, Tahir and a seriously hampered Morkel to come, it was who-wants-the-win or are-we-happy-with-the-draw time.

A maiden over, with short pitch deliveries and wide ones from Shami suggested the latter, as Philander then refused to take a single while playing Zaheer in the penultimate over.

That meant 16 from the final six balls, a hat-trick or three blows only separating both sides from a win.

Rather tamely, considering the unbelievable nature of this every-single-ball-matters Test match, it was both the predators, after sizing each other up for nearly five days, deciding to walk away and call it even, with Steyn hitting a six off the final ball to emphasise the ridiculous nature of one of the best ever modern-day Tests.

A second Test in Durban awaits starting Boxing Day, and if that match is anything even remotely like this one, then everyone is in for another mouthwatering clash between the two best sides in the world.