In the penultimate over before lunch the left-arm spinner removed Kieran Powell, Jason Holder and Joshua da Silva in successive deliveries to join fast bowler Geoff Griffen, who achieved the feat at Lord’s in 1960, in the record books.
Maharaj then followed up with two of the last three to fall in the afternoon to finish with figures of five for 36 as the West Indies were dismissed for 165.
Following a comprehensive innings and 63-run victory inside three days in the first Test a week earlier at the same venue, the result gave South Africa the series 2-0, their first away series triumph since 2017 in New Zealand.
7️⃣ Keshav Maharaj secured his 7th career Test 5-fer 🔥 How good was he with the ball?#WIvSA #ThatsOurGame https://t.co/zPfCoZ8eGm
— Cricket South Africa (@OfficialCSA) 1624301104000
“This is huge for us because we haven’t won on the road for quite some time,” said South African captain Dean Elgar.
“There will be teething years as captain but this is a good, important step on the way forward.”
The home side began the day on 15 without loss looking at a victory target of 324. It was unlikely but given they had chased down 395 to beat Bangladesh in February, the West Indies were not without hope.
At least not until the 13th over by which stage Shai Hope had joined skipper Kraigg Brathwaite back in the pavilion, both dismissed by pace bowler Kagiso Rabada who then persuaded Kyle Mayers into an ugly hoick which spliced to Dean Elgar.
🚨 RESULT | #PROTEAS WIN BY 158 RUNSKeshav Maharaj wraps up the match with a 5-wicket haul to dismiss… https://t.co/xUZs3Fxnm3
— Cricket South Africa (@OfficialCSA) 1624299059000
Maharaj then stole the headlines with his hat-trick to extinguish any fading West Indian hopes of an unlikely victory.
First, opening batsman Powell, who had looked composed and assured through most of his innings of 51, lost his head completely, hoisting Maharaj to deep midwicket where Anrich Nortje barely had to move in taking the catch just metres off the boundary rope.
Holder prodded at his first delivery for Keegan Petersen to take the sharp catch at short-leg and then Wiaan Mulder pulled off a superb snare low to his right at leg-slip when wicketkeeper-batsman da Silva attempted a leg-side glance to the hat-trick ball.
“I just decided to bowl normally and it was a brilliant catch by Wiaan,” said Maharaj.
“I really didn’t know what to do after that because the excitement of the occasion overtook all of us.”
#WIvSA A disappointment result for the #MenInMaroon 💔Congratulations to @OfficialCSA – winners of the Betway Test… https://t.co/SQc8BeymLB
— Windies Cricket (@windiescricket) 1624299632000
Until the Maharaj intervention, South Africa had relied on the excellence of Rabada who bowled beautifully to remove Brathwaite, caught at slip by Elgar, and Hope who fended at a spiteful delivery angled into his body, a faint touch off his left glove carrying through to wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock.
“My job is to bowl, but whenever we need some lower-order runs I try to contribute,” said Rabada who also chipped in with 61 runs in this Test which contributed to him earning him the Player of the Match award.
Rabada was the most successful bowler in the series on either side with 11 wickets.
West Indies held up for some time when play resumed after lunch but it was only a matter of time before Maharaj removed Kemar Roach and Jayden Seales to seal the win.
Roston Chase, hampered by a thigh strain sustained in the field on the third afternoon, did not bat.
“As a batting unit we let ourselves down but I must really commend the effort of the bowlers,” said a dejected Brathwaite.
“We were going well but didn’t carry on. That hurt us. We know where we went wrong, including some technical stuff, so we have to work on that before the next series.”