Kolkata Knight Riders chances of making the semifinals of the Champions League Twenty20 tournament suffered a major blow as they slumped to their second successive defeat after losing to Auckland Aces by seven wickets in a Group A match
Auckland rode high on veteran Azhar Mahmoods superb all-round show as they knocked off a modest target of 138 runs with 14 balls to spare. Mahmood,who was instrumental in restricting KKR to 137 for six with figures of 3 for 16,also produced an unbeaten knock of 51 runs,which turned out to be crucial in the final outcome of the match at the New Wanderers stadium.
KKR captain Gautam Gambhirs decision to induct Shakib Al Hasan at the expense of seasoned Brett Lee backfired badly as the reigning IPL champions missed out a genuine paceman on a pitch that was assisting the faster bowlers.
Apart from Mahmood,Lou Vincent (30),Martin Guptill (25) and Anaru Kitchen (24) also came up with useful contributions. Brendon McCullum top-scored for the Knight Riders with a 35-ball 40,which was laced with two sixes and three fours. But the Knight Riders could not build partnerships and lost wickets in regular intervals.
Mahmood made inroads into the KKRs middle-order with his twin strike in the 10th over as he dismissed Jacques Kallis (0) and Manoj Tiwary (0) in successive deliveries to dent the Knight Riders innings,who after the early loss of Gautam Gambhir had tried to recover well. Mahmood,in his second spell,removed dangerman McCullum to add to the misery of KKR,who came into this match after being crushed by Delhi Daredevils by 52 runs in their opening tournament fixture on Saturday. Mahmood was ably supported by Kyle Mills,Michael Bates and Ronnie Hira,who picked up a wicket apiece.
Electing to bat,KKR were off to a bad start as Gambhirs poor run in the tournament continued for the second straight match when Martin Guptill,diving to his left,took a stunning one-handed catch to dismiss the southpaw. The KKR skipper tried to work the ball towards the onside but only managed to get a leading edge off Michael Bates. Bisla and McCullum recovered well for KKR and put up a 62-run partnership to hold the innings steady.
Bisla survived some anxious moments in the middle before opening up as he first clobbered Mills for two successive boundaries in the third over and then deposited one over mid-wicket off Andre Adams. Bisla was dropped by Mills of his own bowling in the fifth over when the right-hander mistimed a drive and the Aucklander did not quite reel it in with an outstretched left hand. Bisla was caught by Anaru Kitchen off Ronnie Hira over long off in the ninth over. He struck six fours and a six in his 24-ball stay at the crease.
Brief scores: Kolkata Knight Riders: 137 for 6 in 20 overs (Brendon McCullum 40,Manvinder Bisla 38,Azhar Mahmood 3/16) vs Auckland Aces: 139 for 3 in 17.4 overs (Azhar Mahmood 51 not out,Lou Vincent 30; Sunil Narine 2/24)