Dunedin: The first cricket 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.

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 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, the final day.