India finally underlined their status as the world's top ranked Test nation when they crushed New Zealand by a huge margin of an innings and 198 runs to win the three-match series, on day four of the third and final Test at the Vidarbha Cricket Association stadium in Jamtha, Nagpur on Tuesday.
New Zealand were bowled out for 175 in 51.2 overs in their second innings to lose with nearly five sessions left in the match.
This is India's third largest victory margin in terms of an innings victory, after the innings and 239 runs victory against Bangladesh in May 2007 and the innings and 219 runs win over Australia in March 1998.
Ishant Sharma claimed two wickets in a row to finish off things in style when he bowled Tim Southee (31) and Chris Martin to wrap up a comprehensive victory for the hosts. The Indian spinners also made most of the conditions with Harbhajan Singh taking three for 56 in 19 overs, Pragyan Ojha claiming two for 67 and Suresh Raina taking two quick wickets (2 for 1).
India had declared their first innings on a mammoth 566 for eight after New Zealand were bundled out for 193, to take a huge first innings lead of 373 runs.
Rahul Dravid played a patient knock of 191 to set up India's huge score, while captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (98) fell agonizingly short of his hundred put Indian in complete control of the series decider.
Dravid's marathon knock stretched 573 minutes as he hit 21 boundaries in 396 balls, before he holed out at long-on off part-time spinner Kane Williamson. Dhoni and Dravid played a huge role in stretching India's lead as the duo added 193 runs in 54.3 overs for the sixth wicket. Dhoni, who was struggling with cramps, was caught and bowled by Daniel Vettori for 98, laced with 12 fours and a six in his 156-ball knock.
The first two Tests in Ahmedabad and Hyderabad ended in high scoring draws.
McCullum got a boundary in the first over of the day when he cut Ojha through the point region, while Gareth Hopkins drove Sreesanth down the ground for another four, in the next over. He then swept Ojha through square leg for yet another boundary before the spinner extracted revenge.
The Kiwi opener went on the backfoot to play one on the leg side but missed and was trapped leg before wicket for 25 from 38 balls. Off the very next delivery, Ojha got Martin Guptill trapped leg before wicket for a golden duck to reduce the visitors to 38 for two.
Sreesanth came up with a superb spell as he moved the ball a great deal and beat the bat several times, but was unlucky not get a wicket.
Ross Taylor decided to launch a counter-attack and force India to spread their field. He pulled Sreesanth through midwicket and then cut the next delivery past point for successive boundaries in the 19th over.
In the next over from Ojha, Taylor once again connected with a powerful sweep for another four to take the total to 61 for three in 20 overs.
Gautam Gambhir sustained a painful blow when he was hit on his body by the sweep shot from Taylor. However, he continued standing at that position and a few deliveries came up with a brilliant reflex catch to his right to send back Hopkins (8) and give Harbhajan his second wicket.
Taylor, who made 29, was unlucky to be given out caught at short leg off Harbhajan as the ball missed hit bat and went straight off the pads before he was caught by substitute fielder Cheteshwar Pujara.
Ryder looked to play his shots and went for his shots at every opportunity. He (20) got a lifeline when he hit one straight to Gambhir at short cover, who failed to hold on.
Kane Williamson (8) also perished cheaply when Ishant scattered his stumps with a quick incoming delivery as the Kiwis started drifting towards a crushing defeat.
Daniel Vettori also looked to play a few shots as he walked across his stumps and pulled Ishant through square leg and in the same over hit him through covers for the second four of the cover.
Captain Dhoni made an interesting move when he brought on part-timer Suresh Raina and the move paid off handsomely.
Raina claimed two quick wickets to worsen New Zealand's woes further. He started with the wicket of Ryder, who was caught at mid-on for 22 and then trapped Vettori leg before wicket for 13 in his next over.
Tim Southee tried to counter-attack as he slammed Harbhajan for two huge sixes over long-on, while getting away with a close stumping chance in the same over.
At lunch on day four, New Zealand were 140 for eight in 44 overs, still needing 233 runs to make India bat again and avoid the humiliation of an innings defeat.
The innings didn't last long after the lunch break as Ishant ended things in style.
Southee slammed 31 from 25 balls, hitting three sixes, before he charged down the wicket to Ishant but missed and was bowled. Chris Martin lasted just one delivery when Ishant beaten him all ends up to send his stumps crashing and seal an emphatic victory for India.
New Zealand were bundled out for 175 in 51.2 overs to lose by a huge margin of an innings and 198 runs. The visitors, after giving the Indians a stiff fight in the first two matches, failed to rise to the occassion in the series decider and were comprehensively outplayed.
Virender Sehwag was the star with the bat for India in the series as he made 398 runs in the three matches at an astonishing average of 99.50, with the help of a century and three fifties. Dravid also returned back to form with two centuries in the series for a tally of 314 runs, while Harbhajan shone with the bat for 315 runs at an average of 105.00 having hit two centuries in a row. He failed to make an impact with the ball in the first two matches, but made important contributions in the Nagpur Test and ended up with 10 wickets in the series.
If Sehwag was the best batsman of the series, the bowler of the series was easily Daniel Vettori. The Kiwi captain led from the front with the ball as he bowled 200.3 overs in the series to claim 14 wickets, the most by a bowler in the series.
The two teams will resume battle, in the five-match One-Day International series, beginning in Guwahati, on Sunday, November 28.