R Ashwin produced a devastating seven-wicket display that helped India thrash New Zealand by a massive 321-run margin in the third and final Test, to complete a 3-0 whitewash, in Indore on Tuesday.
Ashwin's figures of 7 for 59 were his best in Test cricket, as were his match figures of 13 for 140. The 13.5 overs he delivered in the second innings left New Zealand in tatters as they chased an improbable 475-run target. Stability was the need of the hour but New Zealand's struggling top-order failed to provide that, as Umesh Yadav provided the initial breakthrough in the second over of the innings and dismissed opener Tom Latham for just six.
After an eight-over burst from the seamers, Virat Kohli introduced Ashwin into the attack. Kane Williamson, who had fallen to the spinner on three occasions in the series, decided to attack him and thumped him for three fours in two overs. Ashwin in reply produced a faster, flatter trajectory to Williamson and trapped him lbw for 27. With their Captain dismissed, New Zealand looked to Ross Taylor to bail them out of trouble.
Taylor, like Williamson, attacked Ashwin and dispatched him for a four and a six in his first over. He raced to 32 off 24 balls before he attempted to sweep a full-length Ashwin delivery that sneaked through under his bat and rattled the stumps. With their most accomplished batsmen dismissed, the chances of New Zealand winning or even saving the Test appeared bleak.
The tourists then lost three-more wickets in the next seven overs. Ashwin first accounted for Luke Ronchi and Ravindra Jadeja uprooted Guptill and James Neesham. They stood at 112 for six at that stage.
Mitchell Santner and BJ Watling added 24 for the seventh wicket before Ashwin induced an inside edge from Santner that ricochet onto the stumps. The tail faced an uphill task in their bid to counter Ashwin. The spinner proved too much for Jeetan Patel, Matt Henry and Trent Boult to handle and he dismissed them without much fuss. New Zealand managed just 153 in reply.
The 321-run winning margin is the second-biggest for India in terms of runs. The 27 wickets Ashwin claimed in the series is the second-most by any Indian bowler in a three-match series, behind Harbhajan Singh's 32 wickets in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in 2000-01. Ashwin's tally is also the second-most by any bowler in a three-match series against New Zealand. Waqar Younis had taken 29 scalps in a 1990-91 series. He also won his seventh Man of the Series award in 14 series.
"It was a wicket where you had to work hard, be patient. There was a little bit of help outside the off stump, in terms of footmarks," Ashwin said. "I have to give special mention to Shami, Bhuvi and Umesh, they got us a lot of wickets with reverse swing and Jaddu is a perfect foil. I feel really good about myself and my confidence is sky high."