Kochi: Virender Sehwag hit a rollicking half-century as Delhi Daredevils scored a 38-run win over Kochi Tuskers Kerala to keep its play-offs hopes alive in the Indian Premier League on Saturday.
Sehwag blazed his way to a 47-ball 80 to lead his side to a competitive 157 for seven after electing to bat on a very difficult track, which had uneven bounce.
Delhi were gasping 37 for three at one stage but Sehwag played sensibly as he first guarded his wicket when his teammates were vanishing from the other end and then played his usual aggressive self.
The visitors then bowled out the hosts for 119 in 18.5 overs to record a much-needed win as they were languishing at the bottom of the points table, coming into this contest.
It was Delhi`s third win in eight matches while Kochi now have suffered third defeat in a row.
With this win Delhi have jumped to seventh spot from 10th while Kochi are now second from last.
Batting was a big challenge on the Nehru stadium wicket for both the sides as some balls did not bounce above the ankles and some zoomed up to the chin level.
The Delhi pace trio of Morne Morkel (3/18), Ajit Agarkar (2/23) and Irfan Pathan (2/27) shared seven wickets among them and played a crucial role in scripting their side`s win.
Spinner Roelof van der Merwe (3/20) ran through the Kochi tail, taking three wickets in five balls in the 19th over, to contribute in win.
Ravindra Jadeja (31) and Brad Hodge (27) were the only batsmen who went past the 25-run mark for Kochi.
Kochi needed 59 runs off the last four overs and Jadeja kept their hopes alive by smashing van der Merwe for a six, taking 10 runs from the 17th over.
Vinay Kumar (11) hammered Agarkar for a six in the next over and Delhi players had their hearts pumping fast. But Agarkar did a big favour to his side by getting the danger man Jadeja out in the last ball of that over.
Kochi still needed 40 from 12 balls but van der Merwe took all three remaining wickets -- Ramesh Powar (0) and Sreesanth (0) and Vinay -- in space of five balls to seal the fate of the hosts.
Kochi`s chase was disastrous as Pathan and Morkel rocked the Kochi top order by taking three quick wickets. It was Morkel who started the slide as he dismissed
Michael Klinger (2) and then Pathan saw the backs of Brendon McCullum (7) and Parthiv Patel (1) in his successive overs.
Runs were hard to come by on the slow track but Kochi skipper Mahela Jayawardene and Hodge both found two boundaries each from Umesh Yadav`s overs. The hosts reached 37 for three in six overs but the situation deteriorated when Jayawardene became a victim Ajit Agarkar in the 10th over.
It could have been worse for the hosts had Pathan not dropped Hodge, then on 15, off van der Merwe in the next over. Morkel though ensured that Pathan`s mistake does not cost them dear as he had the Australian caught behind in the 14th over. Balachandra Akhil hit some lusty blows but could not last long and became the third victim of Morkel.
Earlier, Sehwag played a true captain`s knock as it came on a very difficult track and under difficult circumstances. Yogesh Nagar (22) and Travis Birt (20) also supported Sehwag well as they shared 56 and 41 runs stand with their skipper for the fourth and fifth wickets respectively.
Sehwag got out in the 18th over when he attempted a big shot off Vinay Kumar, but not before hitting eight fours and five sixes.
Seamer S Sreesnath was most successful bowler for the hosts as he gave away just 10 runs in his four overs and scalped two top-order batsmen.
It was a horror start for Delhi after electing to bat as Sreesanth bowled David Warner (3) and trapped Naman Ojha (0) in his first over, second of the innings.
But both the batsmen were unlucky as both the balls kept low, specially the ball in which Ojha was declared lbw, was almost unplayable.
The track was double paced and the uneven bounce made life tough for the batsmen. Sehwag though was in no mood to go without a fight as he quickly extracted four boundaries, three off the RP Singh`s overs.
Delhi reached 34 for two in six but Ravindra Jadeja made it 37 for three by trapping Y Venugopal Rao (1) and Delhi`s innings was in complete disarray.
There was no space for extravagance and Sehwag too decided to hold the one end tight as Delhi reached 46 for three after 10 overs.
The fourth boundary of the innings came from the blade of Yogesh Nagar, who dispatched one from Vinay Kumar to the extra cover fence. Sehwag upped the ante by hitting Jadeja for back-to-back sixes and then raised his half-century by pulling Vinay Kumar for a six over mid-wicket in the 15th over.
Nagar was run out in the same over but now there was no stopping Sehwag, who smashed Balachandra Akhil for a six and two fours in the next over.
Spinner Romesh Powar was given the similar treatment but Sehwag could play till the end.