Ashwin, Yadav help India secure hard-fought win

South Africa's blockathon ended, when they were dismissed for 143, shortly after Tea on the fifth and final day of the final Test at the Kotla here, R. Ashwin picked up yet another five-for.

Ravindra Jadeja jumps after dismissing Hashim Amla.   -  R. V. Moorthy

For India, it was a miracle of sorts. On a pitch demanding discipline, they banked on their infallible warhead Ravichandran Ashwin, who took a five-wicket haul, to trounce a defiant South Africa by a record margin of 337 runs on the fifth day of the fourth and final Test at the Feroz Shah Kotla on Monday.

The hosts remained 'invictus' to win the Freedom Series, conceptualised as a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, with a 3-0 verdict in their favour. It also pushed India to the second place in the International Cricket Council (ICC) rankings.

The series victory at the Kotla was India's biggest ever against South Africa. Kohli and his men redeemed some pride for the country after the M.S. Dhoni-led side had lost the Twenty20 and One-Day International (ODI) series against the same opponents.

The Proteas' most colossal series loss since their 3-0 reversal against Australia in 2005-06 was a crushing blow to their reputation as the number one Test team. The South Africans had, before the commencement of this series, not lost an away series in nine years, earning eminence as formidable travellers.

In the face of South African batsmens' tenacious efforts - the team was placed overnight at 72 for 2 off 72 overs - in the quest of a draw, India's prospects of a win looked bleak.

It was painful for the Proteas to bat out 90 overs on the final day. Led by the stellar performance of AB de Villiers (43), they went through an epic test of determination and patience before being all out for 143 in 143.1 overs. The slowness of the pitch might not have assisted the bowlers, but the unavoidable uncertainty in batting on a strip with plenty of wear and tear didn't make the task easy.

With Hashim Amla and de Villiers continuing with their act of blocking, India employed the spinners after taking the new ball in the ninth over. It worked.

Jadeja provides first breakthrough of the day

Ravindra Jadeja provided the breakthrough with a five-over-old ball. The left-armer took Amla's off stump with a straighter delivery and ran about 30 yards in jubilation. It brought to an end the slowest stand, worth 27 runs off 42.1 overs, in Test cricket, for those lasting more than 200 deliveries.

Amla scripted some odd records in his 244-ball 25. It was the slowest knock by a batsman playing 200 balls or more. His strike rate of 10.24 was the lowest in a Test innings of a minimum of 200 deliveries.

Jadeja asked frequent questions and Ashwin sowed seeds of doubt with his wide array of variations, which included his change in run-up and bowling action. Six men, excluding the wicketkeeper, around the bat was a constant feature as Test cricket witnessed a rare occurrence – more than 100 overs were bowled before the team's aggregate could reach 100 runs.

Faf du Plessis overtook Amla to open his account in 53 balls; it suited the occasion. du Plessis, who was adjudged lbw off Jadeja in the final session, consumed two hours for his 10 in a 35-run fourth wicket partnership with the rock solid de Villiers.

de Villiers won hearts with his unwavering focus and fantastic application. The explosive batsman was virtually unarmed while guarding his team's interests. Offering a dead bat, negotiating the occasional turn, staying put despite being hit by the fast deliveries from Umesh Yadav, the South African batting great added a new chapter of heroics to his illustrious career.

The visitors could not block the inevitable for long as India sustained pressure. Resuming at 136 for 5 in the post-tea session, the Proteas lost five wickets in 5.1 overs.

Ashwin trapped JP Duminy on the back foot and Umesh, bowling a fiery spell, accounted for three tailenders in as many overs. Ashwin signalled India's triumph when he turned one sharply to have de Villiers caught at leg slip. He completed his 16th five-for and the fourth in the series by foxing Morne Morkel, inducing eruption of joy from his teammates.

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