Indore: Brad Hodge led the way with four wickets as Kochi Tuskers Kerala thrashed Rajasthan Royals by eight wickets to keep their hopes of earning a play-offs berth alive in the Indian Premier League, here on Sunday.

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Opting to bowl first after winning the toss, Kochi rode on Hodge's impressive figures of four for 13, his best in IPL, to bundle out Rajasthan for a paltry 97, and then chased down the target in just 7.2 overs, with Hodge contributing 33 of them. Thanks to the defeat, Rajasthan are knocked out of the tournament.

On a high after the bowlers' excellent showing, Kochi batsmen led by the dangerous Brendon McCullum and a confident- looking Parthiv Patel, looked at ease during their respective knocks of 29 and 21 not out.

Despite the early loss of skipper Mahela Jayawardene to Jacob Oram, McCullum looked unperturbed and hammered four sixes and a boundary to knock the stuffing out of the

Rajasthan bowlers during his 12-ball cameo. After McCullum's departure, Patel along with Hodge put together a half-century stand to seal the issue in their team's favour.

Chasing a small, total, McCullum kicked off the Kochi innings in style, pulling Shaun Tait for a huge six over deep midwicket. The New Zealander then danced down the track to send Oram over his head for another six.

That was the beginning of a brutal assault as McCullum smothered his Kiwi teammate for two more sixes in the same over.

But just as it seemed like he would finish the job on his own, Nayan Doshi had McCullum.

That, however, didn't disturb Kochi's momentum as Patel and Hodge carried on from where McCullum had left, finding the ropes at the small Holkar Cricket stadium with consummate ease.

While Hodge smashed two sixes and five boundaries during his 17-ball stay at the wicket, Patel scored two fours and a six during his 14-ball tenure.

Earlier, before Hodge spun his magic with his offbreak bowling, the pace combo of RP Singh and S Sreesanth did the initial damage to push Rajasthan on the backfoot.

Rajasthan made six changes to the squad that played in the last match, and the move backfired.

In an otherwise lacklustre batting display, young Ashok Menaria top-scored for Rajasthan, making a well-crafted 31 with the help of three fours and a six.

RP gave Kochi their first breakthrough when he trapped Faiz Fazal in front of the wicket after the batsman missed a fulltoss.

S Sreesanth then had Rahul Dravid with a beauty of a delivery that moved away slightly after landing. Dravid went for it but only managed a nick that was taken by Owais Shah at slip.

Ajinkya Rahane made a statement of sorts by elegantly flicking Sreesanth through midwicket for a boundary but the bowler fought back immediately, having the young batsman plumbed in front of the wicket and leaving Rajasthan in serious trouble.

Shane Watson tried his best to take the fight to the opposition camp, smashing Padmanbhan Prasanth for three massive sixes in the eighth over but Prasanth Parmeswaren came back to disturb the Australian's timber in the next over.

Hodge then took centrestage, dismissing Pinal Shah, Jacob Oram and Shane Warne in quick succession to put his team on top at the Holkar Cricket stadium here.

The spinner from Australia got Shah with a quicker one after the batsman mistimed a slog-sweep to give Y Gnaneswara Rao a simple catch at long-on. Oram and Warne's stumps were knocked over by Hodge as Kochi took command of the match.

Even as wickets kept falling like nine pins, Menaria stood firm, working the ball around for some valuable runs, before Hodge put the brakes on his innings.

Just before that, Ravindra Jadeja and Hodge combined to run out Ankeet Chavan.

It was all over when Parameswaran had last man Nayan Doshi skying an easy catch to Jayawardene in the 19th over of the innings.

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Teams:
   
Rajasthan Royals: Shane Warne (Captain), Swapnil Asnodkar, Stuart Binny, Johan Botha, Deepak Chahar, Ankeet Chavan, Aakash Chopra, Aditya Dole, Nayan Doshi, Rahul Dravid, Samad Fallah, Faiz Fazal, Ashok Menaria, Sumit Narwal, Jacob Oram, Pankaj Singh, Amit Paunikar, Ajinkya Rahane, Abhishek Raut, Dinesh Salunkhe, Pinal Shah, Amit Singh, Shaun Tait, Ross Taylor, Siddharth Trivedi, Shane Watson and Dishant Harendra Yagnik.
   
Kochi Tuskers Kerala: Mahela Jayawardene (Captain), Brendon McCullum, Parthiv Patel, Brad Hodge, Ravindra Jadeja, Kedar Jadhav, Thisara Perera, Raiphi Gomez, Rudra Pratap Singh, Ramesh Powar, VVS Laxman, Sreesanth, Muttiah Muralitharan, Owais Shah, Steven Smith, Balachandra Akhil, Deepak Chougule, Gnaneswara Rao, John Hastings, Michael Klinger, Chandan Madan, Sushant Marathe, Steve O'Keefe, Tanmay Srivastava, Padmanabhan Prasanth and Yashpal Singh.