NAGPUR, Nov 27: Spinner Ravichandran Ashwin produced a mesmerising career-best spell of 7/66 as India clinched the four-match series against world�s top ranked team South Africa by taking an unassailable 2-0 lead with an emphatic 124-run win in the third cricket Test here today.
The last time India had won a Test series against the South Africans was at home in 2004 when they had clinched the two-match series with a 1-0 margin.
Spinning a web of deceit, Ashwin had a superb match haul of 12 for 98, while leg spinner Amit Mishra claimed 3 for 51 as the hosts shot out the visitors for 185 in 89.5 overs in the second innings to wrap up the match 52 minutes after the tea session on the third day. It is for the second time in the series that a Test match ended within three days, the first instance being in the first Test in Mohali.
This was also Virat Kohli�s first Test series win as a captain on home soil and also marked an end to South Africa�s track record of not losing a Test series away from home for nine long years.
South Africa needed to score 310 to score for a series-levelling win but woefully fell short of the target, unable to negotiate the Indian spin threat led by 29-year-old Ashwin who completed his 4th 10-wicket haul in a match in his 31st Test.
Ashwin�s second innings victims included three left-handers � the opening duo of Dean Elgar, Stiaan van Zyl and Jean-Paul Duminy � apart from the prize wicket of AB de Villiers, the visitors� most successful batsman on this visit. He fittingly took the last wicket, by clean bowling last man Morne Morkel through the gate in his final devastating spell of 4 for 16 in 19 balls.
However, it was Mishra, who got the important breakthrough in the second session to break the stubborn 72- run fifth wicket stand between rival captain Hashim Amla (39) and Faf du Plessis (39), the visitors� highest of the match after their capitulation for their lowest-ever total against India of 79 in the first innings.
Mishra got rid of Amla to end the partnership and also packed off du Plessis soon afterwards before Ashwin polished off the tail with the second new ball in a devastating spell.
With India winning at Mohali and Nagpur and the game in Bengaluru being washed out, the teams will play the inconsequential final Test at Delhi�s Feroz Shah Kotla from December 3.
The loss also ended South Africa�s enviable nine-year away record without a series defeat. They had last lost to Sri Lanka 0-2 in 2006 and then were undefeated in 14 rubbers since then till today�s reversal against India.
The visitors stared a tough task going into the third day on a turning track, starting the day at 32 for 2, needing to score 278 more runs.
The only time they showed some gumption was when Amla and du Plessis defied the home attack from the first hour of the pre-lunch session till the end of the first hour after the break.
But once it was breached by Mishra when he got rid of Amla, it was a question of time for India to race to victory. Mishra�s twin blows in six balls in successive overs in the second hour after lunch to send back both rival captain Hashim Amla (39) and Faf du Plessis (39) and bring the home team closer to victory after the fifth wicket duo stonewalled for seven minutes under three hours in adding 72 runs.
The pair, who came together in the first hour before lunch, held on till the second hour after the break by defending stoutly against the spinning ball before Mishra broke the stand by dismissing Amla with a classical leg break to have the rival skipper caught by a leaping home team captain Virat Kohli at short gully.
India 1st Innings: 215
South Africa 1st Innings: 79
India 2nd Innings: 173
South Africa 2nd innings (target: 310 runs): D Elgar lbw Ashwin 18, S van Zyl c R Sharma b Ashwin 5, I Tahir lbw b Mishra 8, H Amla c Kohli b Mishra 39, AB de Villiers lbw Ashwin 9, Faf du Plessis b Mishra 39, JP Duminy lbw Ashwin 19, D Vilas c Saha b Ashwin 12, S Harmer not out 8, K Rabada c Kohli b Ashwin 6, M Morkel b Ashwin 4. Extras: (b-9, lb-5, nb-4) 16. Total (all out; 89.5 overs) 185. Fall of wickets: 1-17, 2-29, 3-40, 4-58, 5-130, 6-135, 7-164, 8-167, 9-177, 10-185. Bowling: Ishant Sharma 15-6-20-0, Ravichandran Ashwin 29.5-66-7, Ravindra Jadeja 25-12-34-0, Amit Mishra 20-2-51-3. � PTI