Not only did India win twice as many matches as South Africa during this tour, with the final scoreline reading 8-4, but they also out-fielded a home side that has made its name on athleticism. At Newlands, where India won the deciding T20 by seven runs, the quality of the teams' groundwork was noticeably different. The hosts put down two chances and made several other clumsy errors that ultimately cost them the series, while the visitors barely put a foot wrong in the field.

"The difference would have been fielding. The fumbles would have cost us the game," Ottis Gibson, South Africa's coach admitted, after the match.

Shikhar Dhawan was let off twice by Tabraiz Shamsi on 9 and 34, and South Africa paid dearly for it. He went on to top-score with 47 and laid the platform for India to finish on 172.

While stand-in captain Rohit Sharma thought the total was "maybe 15 runs," short, history suggested it could be enough. Only once had a target higher than that been successfully chased down in a T20 at this venue - by Australia, who hunted down 179 two years ago. Suresh Raina, who partnered Dhawan in a second-wicket stand of 65, believed India had enough. "With 170 when you have Bhuvi, Bumrah, Hardik, you can easily win, with a good fielding unit," Raina said.

India's effort was not perfect - the first boundary hit by Reeza Hendricks threatened to graze the fingertips of Axar Patel at backward point - and a misfield in the penultimate over allowed Christiaan Jonker to take a second run when things were getting tight, but they were much better than South Africa in all aspects. "We bowled well with good variations," Raina said. "When you are chasing 170, you need to have a good first six overs."

South Africa were only allowed to score 25 runs in the Powerplay and their required run rate shot up past 10 runs an over. In particular, the seamers' use of the knuckle ball got the better of South Africa's batsmen, who are used to pace. Across formats, India's pacemen have impressed, be it by exploiting what South Africa hoped would be home advantage in the Tests, adjusting to surfaces that seemed subcontinental in nature at times at SuperSport Park, or just playing with lengths with the white-ball.

The result was India's best performance in South Africa, something they will use to lay the foundations for future tours. "We showed what we can achieve as a team in South Africa. No team has ever done it before," Raina said. "That confidence in the dressing room gave us a lot of licence to express ourselves."

Raina was only part of the T20 squad and hoped to use these matches to make a case to play the 2019 World Cup. "I worked really hard for the last two years and I've been hoping I would play for India again," Raina said. "I have worked really hard on my game and my mental toughness."

Overall, every member of the Indian side displayed a resilience South Africa may not have been expecting, and some have suggested the only thing that stood between India and all three trophies was team selection. Ajinkya Rahane was not included in the XI until the third Test, which India won, while Bhuvneshwar Kumar was left out of the Centurion Test, where he may have made a difference.

"We don't want to be too greedy. We are happy with two trophies," Bhuvneshwar said. "Hopefully next time we come, it will be all three."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent