T&T’s Sunil Narine was up to his old tricks again yesterday, taking 2/24 but his efforts were again in vain, as Kolkata Knight Riders went under to the Auckland Aces at Capetown. With the conditions bitterly cold, Narine was upstaged by veteran Pakistani all rounder Azhar Mahmood.
While this was Auckland’s first match of the Champions League proper, it was Kolkata’s second, and a second defeat left the IPL champions needing to win both their remaining games, while keeping an eye on run rate, in order to make the semi-finals from Group A.
After winning the toss, Kolkata looked like setting a formidable total on two occasions, and both times they were stymied by Mahmood. Gautam Gambhir had fallen early - caught by Martin Guptill diving low to his left at point - but despite the new ball seaming and bouncing, Manvinder Bisla and Brendon McCullum found the boundary regularly. They got to 72 for one in the ninth over, when left-arm spinner Ronnie Hira made the breakthrough by having Bisla caught at long-off, and then it was over to Mahmood.
In his first over, Mahmood had Jacques Kallis caught at slip and Manoj Tiwary caught and bowled off successive deliveries, reducing Kolkata to 72 for 4. He eventually ended with 3/16.
Chasing 138, Lou Vincent gave his team a flying start. In the first over, bowled by L Balaji, Vincent smashed him over mid-off and clipped over midwicket for fours, before hitting a towering six over long-on. He slog swept Shakib for another six to blast Auckland to 31 after two overs.
Realising Kolkata needed wickets and fast, Gambhir gave Narine the third over and the spinner had Vincent top edging to square leg. Mahmood joined Guptill and the pair used the buffer provided by Vincent’s aggression to accumulate steadily, while hitting the odd boundary. Auckland were 51 for 1 when the fielding restrictions were lifted.
Auckland seemed to want to target some bowlers more than others and Balaji was one of them. He returned to bowl the tenth and Mahmood immediately hoisted him towards deep square leg, where Pradeep Sangwan took the catch but stepped on the boundary. Guptill fell in that over, slogging to long-on, leaving Auckland 62 to get off 61. Anaru Kitchen then hit a four off his first ball and a six off his third, hacking at the equation, while Mahmood calmly stayed the course.
With three runs to get and plenty of deliveries remaining, Man-of-the-match Mahmood pulled to the square-leg boundary, the winning shot bringing up a successive half-century in the Champions League.
Kolkata Knight Riders 137 for 6 (McCullum 40, Mahmood 3-16) vs Auckland Aces 139 for 3 (Mahmood 51*, Narine 2/24) Auckland won by 7 wkts.