Mahela Jayawardene struck an unbeaten half-century on Tuesday as the Delhi Daredevils beat Kings XI Punjab by five wickets to become the first team to reach the Indian Premier League playoffs.
The Sri Lanka batsman hit eight fours to score 56 in 49 balls as Delhi totaled 140-5 in 19 overs after pace bowlers Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron combined to take five wickets to help restrict Punjab to 136-8 at Ferozeshah Kotla Stadium.
Jayawardene added 48 with Naman Ojha (34), helping Delhi recover from 37-4 in the sixth over.
Ojha struck three fours and two sixes in a 29-ball knock, both his sixes coming off successive deliveries from leg-spinner Piyush Chawla. He was dropped on 22 by Chawla at long-on off Azhar Mahmood when Punjab were fighting to get back into the game.
Jayawardene guided the team to victory along with Irfan Pathan, who chipped in with 19 not out.
“There was some movement for fast bowlers, and Varun and Umesh bowled beautifully,” Sehwag said. “We were expecting that Mahela would play till the end and finish the game. It is difficult to go in and play your shots, but he took his time and ensured the win.”
Earlier, Punjab captain David Hussey struck an unbeaten 40.
Hussey, leading the side in place of compatriot Adam Gilchrist, who has been out for most of the tournament due to a hamstring injury, struck one six and five fours in 35 balls.
In-form opener Mandeep Singh was the next highest scorer with 21 and one of Aaron’s two victims, the other being Shaun Marsh in a haul of 2-19.
Yadav was the most successful bowler in claiming the wickets of Nitin Saini, Azhar Mahmood and Piyush Chawla to finish with 3-21.
Delhi have won 10 games and lost four. Kings XI Punjab have seven wins and seven losses, and they need to win both their remaining games, against Delhi and the Chennai Super Kings, to have a chance of qualifying for the playoffs.
Meanwhile, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) on Tuesday suspended five players for illegal activities following a sting operation by a TV news channel that showed them either agreeing to spot-fixing in domestic games or to negotiate IPL contracts, which is against tournament rules.
The BCCI announced provisional suspensions on T.P. Sudhindra, Shalabh Srivastava, Mohnish Mishra, Amit Yadav and Abhinav Bali after watching footage provided to it by the news channel.
The cricket board also said the former head of the International Cricket Council’s anti-corruption unit, Ravi Sawani, would hold an inquiry to look into “the involvement of players in illegal activities or activities against the interests of the BCCI and the game.”
The TV sting involved reporters posing as agents of a sports management firm offering players money to perform in a certain way at specific times in matches.
India TV also showed some players claiming IPL teams lure players by offering them more money than allowed under tournament rules in undeclared transactions.
Pune Warriors player Mishra and Kings XI Punjab’s Yadav were shown apparently agreeing to negotiate with other teams in the IPL.