Kolkata: Manvinder Bisla struck a magnificent 51 not out to keep Kolkata Knight Riders in contention for the play-offs as they beat Kings XI Punjab by six wickets here at the Eden Gardens on Friday. This was Kolkata's third win in eight matches, while Punjab suffered their fourth loss in eight matches.
In pursuit of 150, Kolkata got their chase off on the wrong foot with former Pakistan allrounder Azhar Mahmood sending back Gautam Gambhir (8) and Yusuf Pathan off back-to-back deliveries in the second over. However, Bisla and Jacques Kallis added 66 off 55 balls to put the Kolkata chase back in order.
Harmeet Singh, who scripted Punjab's win against Delhi earlier this week with three wickets, came on to bowl and struck straight away with the wicket of Kallis who edged an outswinger straight through to wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist after scoring 37. That wicket raised the visitors' hopes but Bisla and Eoin Morgan batted with real purpose, and by the time Morgan got out for 42 off 26 balls, Kolkata were almost home needing just two to win.
Earlier, opting to bat, Kings XI Punjab put up a decent batting display to notch 149 for six against Kolkata Knight Riders.
Manan Vohra (31, 21 balls) top scored for the Kings, as almost everybody in the line-up -- Adam Gilchrist (27), Mandeep Singh (25), David Hussey (21) made small contributions.
It was Gurkeerat Singh's 15-ball unbeaten 28 studded with two boundaries and an equal number of sixes that took them to a fighting total.
On a day when the Knight Riders spin ploy did not work, Jacques Kallis (4-0-14-2) with two crucial wickets of Mandeep and Hussey ensured that the home side had their moments and did not let the Kings off the hook.
It was one of the rare day when Purple Cap holder Sunil Narine went wicketless (4-0-22-0), while Sachithra Senanayake and leg-spinner Sarabjit Ladda conceded 47 runs from six overs together.
Balaji (one for 44) conceded 18 runs in the last over with two sixes and one four, bearing the brunt of Gurkeerat Singh (28 not out from 15 balls; 2x4, 2x6) that took Kings to a competitive total.
Put in to bat, Kings XI made a slow but sensible start as Gilchrist took time to settle down while talented Mandeep scored briskly with some elegant shots.
Lucky to survive a runout at the non-striking end, Gilchrist played Senanayake watchfully as the KKR off-spinner began with a maiden.
Mandeep however played freely hitting Balaji for two boundaries before charging out to Narine for the same effect to keep the scoreboard ticking.
Gilchrist soon got into the act when he took on Senanayake resulting in 12 runs as they were 45 for no loss at the end of Powerplay.
It was then smart captaincy from Gambhir, who brought in Kallis immediately after six overs, which helped in breaking the partnership.
Kallis, who had an injury scare in the previous match after twisting his knee, struck in his very first ball dismissing the inform Mandeep.
The SA all-rounder smartly used his bouncers and varied his pace as he was quite economical, even as the spinners trio of Narine, Senanayake and Ladda were expensive to start with.
Just when a set-looking Gilchrist looked to break free by hitting Bhatia over midwicket, the Knight Riders had another breakthrough.
In what turned out to be a soft dismissal, Gilchrist who in his prime time would have cleared the park with his pull found Morgan's safe hands to continue his miserable outing.
But to the Kings' delight, there was no panic in the middle. Vohra played a fine cameo with one six and three fours before being dismissed by Balaji as the Kings XI maintained a seven-plus scoring rate.
If his poor run with the bat wasn't enough, Yusuf even leaked runs while on the field conceding a boundary.