AB De Villiers and Hashim Amla blocked to near-eternity (well eternity in terms of a Test match), but in the end, the India bowlers won the battle in dramatic circumstances on the final session of the final day of this unforgettable Test match at the Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi.
For the longest time it looked like Amla, first, and De Villiers would block their way to a draw, but a couple of quick wickets in the first two overs of the final session – of Dane Vilas, castled by the reverse-swinging Umesh Yadav (21-16-9-3) and De Villiers, who could not get his glove out of the way in time off Ashwin (49.1-26-61-5) – paved the way for India to bowl SA out for 143 and win the Test match by 337 runs – that stat though cannot be more misleading, because this is a batting performance that South Africa can be proud of, having made India bowl 143.1 overs.
In the morning, the "Mighty Hash" had his near-impenetrable defence breached by Ravindra Jadeja in the morning session, before Faf Du Plessis joined De Villiers to continue the mega blockathon.
However, Jadeja, the bowler who has looked the most dangerous on the final day, trapped Du Plessis (10, 97b, 1x4) in front of the wicket, before R Ashwin got in on the act as well, doing the same to JP Duminy (10 12b).
De Villiers (43, 297b, 6x4), though, with ice in his veins, remained solid, with Dane Vilas (13, 50b, 2x4) doing fairly well as well, surviving a couple of storming Ashwin deliveries off the rough, to go into Tea on 136/5 in 138 overs. South Africa scored 42 runs in this second session in 31 overs, but that was all she wrote for the visitors, as those two quick strikes finally broke the Proteas back to hand India a memorable 3-0 series win.
Starting the day at 72/2, South Africa only added 22 more runs in 35 overs – the lowest ever in a full session – in the first session to go into Lunch on 94/3 in 107 overs. The loss of their captain Amla (25, 244b, 3x4), who played inside the line of a wonderful delivery from Jadeja (46-33-26-2) that just spun enough to take off-stump, being the only blow of the morning in terms of wickets.
It might have been an even bigger blow had Jadeja, Ashwin and co. been able to take advantage of that dismissal and start to run through the South Africa batting order, like they have done so often this Freedom Series, but Du Plessis came in and took over the blocking duties from Amla, with De Villiers, at the other end, looking quite comfortable as well.
If there were hopes of the day five pitch assisting the bowlers a little bit more, those hopes vanished pretty quickly. The slowness of the pitch means the batsmen have a lot of time to play the spinners, with only Jadeja looking remotely threatening, owing to his faster pace.
Ashwin just wasn't penetrative enough in the morning, with the off-spinner continuing to stick to bowling at a slower pace, and with it allowing De Villiers and the rest to play him off the pitch.
However, everything changed in that dramatic final session, with Ashwin also finding his mojo to finish with another five-for.