Ravichandran Ashwin mesmerised the New Zealand batsmen with another magical spell of spin bowling as India completed a 3-0 whitewash of the visitors by winning the third and final Test by a whopping 321 runs here on Tuesday.
Chasing an improbable 475-run target, Ashwin ripped through the brittle New Zealand batting line-up with a sensational spell of 7 for 59 to skittle the opposition for a paltry 153 in 44.5 overs with an entire day to spare at the Holkar Stadium, which hosted its first ever Test.
The 30-year-old finished with a match haul of 13 for 140 and ended the series with a bagful of 27 wickets to emerge as the standout performer in a thoroughly one sided series which helped India to regain number one position in Tests.
Earlier, resuming at 18 for no loss, the hosts rode on Cheteshwar Pujara’s unbeaten 101, his eighth Test ton, and an aggressive 50 by comeback man Gautam Gambhir before declaring their second innings at 216 for three an hour before the tea break.
There was hardly any resistance from the Kiwi batsmen as Ashwin scalped one wicket after another to demolish the opposition in just about three hours of play, much to the delight of a near capacity Dussehra crowd.
The pitch in this match did not turn as much as it did in the earlier two games but still New Zealand batsmen looked clueless against the Indian spinners.
Indian coach Anil Kumble and his entire staff erupted in joy in the dressing room as Ashwin fittingly took the last wicket with a return catch of Trent Boult, triggering wild celebrations on the field as well. It was also Kumble’s first series win at home after the success in the West Indies.
The focus will now shift to the five match ODI series beginning at Dharamsala from October 16 with Mahendra Singh Dhoni taking over the reins of the team from Kohli.
Such was the dominance of the Indian spinners that Ashwin and Jadeja accounted for 41 out of 60 New Zealand wickets in the series. It was also Ashwin’s sixth ten-wicket haul in 39 Tests and his second innings figures bettered his earlier 7 for 66 heist.
Like in the first innings Left arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja provided the ideal foil to the off spinner by taking two wickets.
For New Zealand Martin Guptill (29), captain Kane Williamson (27), senior batsman Ross Taylor (32) and wicket keeper B Watling (23 not out) were the main scorers as Ashwin ran through their batting order.
India had won the opening and second Tests at Kanpur and Kolkata by 197 and 178 runs respectively and completed their total domination of New Zealand at this venue by winning it by the biggest margin in the rubber.
The 3-0 series triumph was the third for India in their last four home rubbers, the earlier ones achieved against Australia and West Indies, and stretched their enviable winning Test record at home to 12 out of 13 encounters, including the 3-0 rout of South Africa last season.
In the morning, pushed firmly on the back-foot when India took a huge first innings lead of 258 runs on Monday, New Zealand allowed the home team to score quickly by riding on Pujara’s unbeaten 101 in 148 balls and set them a daunting task on a wearing track.
Ashwin, who claimed 6 for 81 in New Zealand s first innings, bagged the wickets of rival captain Kane Williamson (27), for the fourth time in the series, Ross Taylor (32) both of who tried to hit their way out of trouble against the wily spinner, and Luke Ronchi for a duck after opener Tom Latham had been trapped in front by Umesh Yadav.
He added the wickets of Mitchell Santner, Jeetan Patel and Matt Henry in his second spell, the last two in one over, as the Kiwis added just two runs and then came back for his third spell to break the last wicket stand between wicket keeper Watling and Boult by accepting the return catch of the last man to terminate the innings and match.
In between, Jadeja accounted for opener Guptill and all rounder James Neesham.
Earlier in the day, Pujara continued his superb form with the bat to notch up his maiden hundred of the series as India declared their second innings closed with four and half sessions left to force yet another thumping victory.
India applied the closure soon after Pujara struck James Neesham for his ninth four to reach his 8th career century in 147 balls in his 38th game.
The century was the first for Pujara after 9 Test matches, his previous one (145 not out) coming in the third and final Colombo Test against Sri Lanka last August that paved the way for India’s 2-1 series victory.
His scores in this series read 62, 78, 87, 4 and 41 before Tuesday’s innings in the series after having notched up a double hundred and a hundred in the Duleep Trophy in the run-up to the international home season.
The century here was Pujara s sixth at home and second against the same opposition after his 159 at Hyderabad, his first Test hundred, in 2012.
Man of the series - Ravichandran Ashwin
It was Ashwin’s sixth ten-wicket haul in 39 Tests and his second innings figures bettered his earlier 7 for 66 heist