Mohali: Ravindra Jadeja made a memorable comeback to Test cricket with a five-wicket haul as India relied on the spinners to fashion a resounding 108-run victory against South Africa in the low-scoring first match to take a 1-0 lead in the four-match series, here.
Chasing a difficult 218-run target on a turning track, the Proteas were bundled for 109 runs in 39.5 overs in the final session as the match ended inside three days at the IS Bindra stadium.
Jadeja, who bagged his third fifer in 13 Tests with figures of 5/21, trapped Imran Tahir (4) LBW to pick the final South African wicket as the team celebrated the win against the No.1 Test side with congratulatory hugs amongst themselves.
Virat Kohli's joy of winning his first game at home as Test captain was also evident, especially after the hosts lost the ODI and the T20 series against the visitors.
If Ravichandran Ashwin turned on the heat against the formidable batting line-up in the first innings with a five- wicket haul, then left-arm spinner Jadeja, marked his Test return with a fifer in the second.
The spin troika of Ashwin, Jadeja and Amit Mishra snapped 19 wickets in the game. Kohli wasted no time in getting down to business in the final innings by giving the new ball to spinners Ashwin (3-39) and Jadeja.
The visitors' move of sending pinch-hitter Vernon Philander (1) was neutralised when Jadeja trapped the batsman LBW on the very first delivery of the second over.
Ashwin, who had a special game after becoming the fastest Indian bowler to race to 150 wickets in his 29th Test, spun into action from the other end to send Faf du Plessis (1) caught at slip on a lovely tossed up delivery that the jittery-looking batsman failed to cope.
The nerves were palpable in the visiting camp when skipper Hashim Amla was cleaned up for nought by Jadeja after looking to leave a length ball that carried straight in and rattled the middle stump. South Africa were reduced to 10 for three.
Mishra (1/19), introduced in the 10th over of the innings, then produced the big moment after cleaning up first -innings top-scorer AB de Villiers (16) on a flighted, pitched up delivery that stayed low and rushed on to the off stump.
This was the second time in the match that Mishra had plotted the star batsman s downfall.
The two teams will now travel to Bengaluru for the second Test, beginning November 14.
The game after tea seemed more like a foregone conclusion but the seventh-wicket 42-run stand between Stiaan van Zyl (36) and Simon Harmer (11) did give the home fans a bit of a jitter.
Jadeja, who retunred to the team after more than a year, finally broke the stand by sending back Harmer, caught at slip. But the wicket only came after the on-field umpires made sure whether Jadeja had bowled a legitimate delivery or not.
Jadeja's wicket of de Villiers in the first innings, when he was on 7 and went on to score 63, was denied on the second day after television replays showed the left-arm spinner had overstepped the popping crease.
Today though Dane Vilas s (7) way of dismissal spoke a lot about the visiting batsmen s state of mind. The wicketkeeper-batsman was bowled by Jadeja after pushing forward to a straight delivery, while he had his bat tucked behind his pad.
The rest of the batting fell like a pack of cards as a good weekend crowd a welcome relief to the organisers, who saw two days of empty seats savoured the home team s victory.
Major contributions from Murli Vijay (75 and 47) and Cheteshwar Pujara s patient 77 in the second essay also contributed to the win in the low-scoring encounter.
The hosts always looked ahead of the opposition after making 201 in the first innings and then bundling out the Proteas for 184 runs.
In a see-saw game belonging to the slow bowlers, it was the Proteas spinners who made it count this morning as the Indian batting witnessed a dramatic collapse in the first session of play. India though still managed to touch the 200- run mark, which ultimately proved vital.
India, who had taken a slender 17-run first innings lead, added 60 runs in the morning session while losing six wickets after they resumed the day at 125 for two.
In fact, India lost six wickets for the addition of just 24 runs as they were 161 for two when Kohli (29) fell just after the drinks break.
Tahir and Simon Harmer shared the spoils with four wickets each to spin a web around the Indian batting.
The drama unfolded post the first drinks interval when part- time bowler Zyl got overnight batsman Kohli back in the pavilion to break the 66-run third-wicket partnership.
Pujara soon joined his partner in the pavilion after Tahir got the settled batsman to edge one to slip. After that it was a procession as wickets tumbled in a jiffy.
Harmer, who was operating from the other end since the ninth over of the day, sent Ajinkya Rahane (2) back in the pavilion. The ball kicked off the turf as Rahane got an inside edge and substitute Temba Bavuma took another sharp catch at forward short-leg.
Bavuma, who had been substituting for injured Dale Steyn, also picked up a marvellous catch at the close-in position to send back Vijay on Day 2 off Tahir.
Just when Jadeja (8) and Saha seemed to be getting into some kind of groove, Harmer struck again to send the left-arm all-rounder packing.
Unable to read Harmer s off-spin from around the wicket, Jadeja missed his backfoot flick to be trapped LBW.
Not done yet, Harmer struck again to get Mishra out for 2.
Trying a half-hearted sweep, Mishra top-edged the ball to backward square leg and du Plessis made no mistake.
Tahir finally got Ashwin (3) caught at slip and the umpires took the bails off for the session. The bowlers wrapped up the Indian tail soon after the resumption of play post lunch but not before Wriddhiman Saha (20) helped add 15 more runs to the lead. The runs on the board though were enough for a comprehensive victory.