Five defeats at home have meant the Feroz Shah Kotla faithful have had little to cheer this season, and today was the bleakest day since Delhi Daredevils were routed by Mumbai Indians in their opening game. Two days after a Virender Sehwag special handed Kochi Tuskers Kerala a hiding, it was the turn of Mahela Jayawardene's men to outclass Delhi, snapping a three-game losing streak by cruising to victory with five overs to go.
The Kotla track has been everything from a batting beauty to a square turner this season, but though the pitch was neither of those extremes on Monday, Delhi's batsmen struggled to a sub-par total, and like generous hosts, their bowlers gave the visitors 18 extras to ease Kochi's path to victory.
Delhi's batting is hugely reliant on their two lethal hitters at the top of the order, Virender Sehwag and David Warner, and their early exit derailed the home side's innings. Sehwag swatted a couple of fours in the first over, and greeted the debutant Prasanth Parameswaran with a brutal hit for six in the third over. Three balls later, though, Parameswaran had a moment to remember, getting Sehwag caught behind. And when Warner pulled Sreesanth to long-on, Delhi were down to 42 for 2.
It wasn't exactly vintage Twenty20 batting after that as Rao and Yogesh Nagar put on the biggest stand of the innings at just over a-run-a-ball. There was a surprise bouncer down the leg side from the left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja, and a ball that bounced twice from Vinay Kumar and was swiped for four, but otherwise it was mostly sedate stuff.
The arrival of Travis Birt spiced up things as he chipped in with a series of innovative strokes, scoring virtually all his runs behind the wicket. The highlight of the innings was his angled glide for four through third man, after he went down on a knee and initially looked to paddle the ball.
Delhi's chances of winning hinged on keeping in tight and getting rid of the big names at the top of the Kochi batting early. Instead, Irfan Pathan sprayed five wides in the first over, and then gifted a boundary by slipping the ball down the leg side. Brendon McCullum then caned Morne Morkel for three fours in the next over, and the game was as good as over after Umesh Yadav's first over went for 23. There was a classic McCullum extra cover drive, a chest-high full toss that was unintentionally clipped for six, another short ball that was crashed for six more, before a muscled four through cover-point propelled Kochi to 53 for 0 after four overs.
The openers were dismissed soon after, but with the asking rate at 5 and the likes of Mahela Jayawardene and Brad Hodge to come, the next half hour was mostly about completing the formalities. Jayawardene was needlessly run-out, before Parthiv Patel and Hodge killed off any Delhi dreams of a comeback with an unbroken 52-run stand.
The result leaves Delhi needing five wins in their remaining matches to reach the final four, and while Kochi moved up to eight points, their route to the semi-finals isn't straight-forward either.