Zaheer Khan bowled the touring Indians to a resounding 96-run win over Rest of South Africa on the penultimate day at Sedgars Park in Potchefstroom on Saturday.
The left-arm paceman's figures of 3 for 36 do not quite reflect the role he played in stopping the hosts from successfully chasing down a target of 321. Rest of South Africa were bowled out for 224 in 48.5 overs to give India a moral-boosting victory.
Zaheer took two early wickets but none was more important than the third strike when, coming in for yet another spell in the final session, he induced an ill-timed pull from Justin Kemp (53) and snuffed the fight out of the hosts.
Kemp had put the tourists on the defensive with a century stand for the fifth wicket with Vaughan van Jaarsveld (66) but his dismissal handed over all the aces to the Indians.
Kemp was guilty of ejecting van Jaarsveld out from the middle when he pushed Harbhajan Singh on to the off-side and took off for a single after a little hesitancy.
Van Jaarsveld, caught in two minds, couldn't beat the throw from cover collected in nick of time by wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Van Jaarsveld played a highly attractive knock in smashing 66 from 70 balls with 10 fours and a huge six off Harbhajan Singh.
Acting skipper VVS Laxman, sensing the discomfort of the new batsmen, turned to his main trump card Zaheer Khan and the left-arm seamer rewarded the faith with the scalp of Kemp.
Kemp batted with authority and power in thrashing his half century from 62 balls but the twin strike at a critical juncture left Rest of South Africa doddering at 183 for six.
Harbhajan Singh had Paul Adams (0) caught at forward short leg to make it seven down without any further addition and then took two wickets off successive balls to leave Rest down to the last pair at the crease.
The Indian medium pacers repeated the good work of first innings and young VRV Singh forced himself into contention for a berth in the eleven for first Test with two critical wickets off successive balls in the middle of the innings.
Earlier, the Indians resumed at 93 for 7 and it's tail wagged a bit to stretch the score to 142 all out.
Irfan Pathan, like in the first innings, was the top scorer again with an unbeaten knock of 42.
Alfonso Thomas was the pick of Rest of South Africa bowlers with a haul of 7 for 56 from 21-odd highly probing overs.
Indians first innings: 316 for 7 decl
Rest of South Africa first innings: 138 all out
Indians second innings:
Virender Sehwag lbw b Thomas 10
Wasim Jaffer c Van Wyk b Thomas 0
VVS Laxman c Duminy b Thomas 31
Sachin Tenddulkar lbw b Hayward 12
Sourav Ganguly c van Jaarsveld b Hayward 0
M S Dhoni c Kemp b Thomas 16
Irfan Pathan not out 40
Harbhajan Singh lbw b Thomas 0
Zaheer Khan c Van Wyk b Thomas 3
S Sreeesanth c van Wyk b De Wet 13
VRV Singh c Adams b Thomas 6
Extras (b4, lb2, w2, nb3) 11
Total (all out in 53.4 overs) 142
Fall of wickets: 1-3, 2-14, 3-33, 4-33, 5-55, 6-93, 7-93, 8-97, 9-134.
Bowling: Mornie Morkel 17-5-44-0, Alfonso Thomas 21.4-6-56-7, Mornantau Hayward 7-3-13-2, Friedel de Wet 8-3-23-1.
Rest of South Africa second innings:
J Rudolph b Khan 0
Alviro Petersen lbw b Singh 22
Jean Paul Duminy b Khan 20
Vaughan Van Jaarsveld run out 66
Morne van Wyk b Singh 0
Justin Kemp c Dhoni b Khan 53
Alfonso Thomas c Ganguly b Harbhajan Singh 15
Paul Adams c Jaffer b Harbhajan Singh 0
Mornie Morkel c Dhoni b Sehwag 26
Freuden de Wit lbw b Harbhajan Singh 0
Nantie Hayward not out 1
Extras (b11, lb5, w1, nb4) 21
Total (all out, 48.5 overs) 224
Fall of wickets: 1-0, 2-36, 3-75, 4-75, 5-175, 6-183, 7-183, 8-218, 9-218, 10-224.
Bowling: Zaheer Khan 12-5-36-3, S Sreesanth 10-2-46-0, VRV Singh 8-0-41-2, I Pathan 4-0-31-1, Harbhajan Singh 12-3-39-3, V Sehwag 2.5-0-15-1.