Kolkata: Andre Russell returned with a four-wicket haul to guide Kolkata Knight Riders to a seven-run win over Kings XI Punjab and go atop the points table in their return to home in the Indian Premier League T20 cricket tournament on Wednesday.
Put into bat, Gautam Gambhir and Robin Uthappa blasted half-centuries to give Kolkata Knight Riders a perfect launchpad but Kings XI Punjab did well to restrict them to a modest 164/3.
The hosts then returned to restrict Punjab to 157-9 in their stipulated 20 overs, despite a strokeful 68 off 42 balls by Australia’s Glenn Maxwell and a 7-ball 21-run cameo by Axar Patel down the order.
Put into bat, the two-time former champions Kolkata once again got off to solid start with Gambhir (54 from 45 balls; 6×4, 1×6) and Uthappa (70 from 49 balls; 6×4, 2×6) setting up a firm foundation in a 101-run partnership from 13.3 overs.
It was their highest opening wicket stand this season, and third overall century partnership, that put them in right stead but their star duo of Yusuf Pathan and Andre Russell failed to bring up their last match’s heroics to be content with a total which could have been much bigger.
In reply, KXIP were reduced to 13/3 in 19 balls with Russell’s twin blows in his first two overs and Morne Morkel dismissing skipper Murali Vijay (6) cheaply.
In Wriddhiman Saha (24 from 20 balls; 3×4), the Punjab franchise got some hope but the local lad got out to a poor shot dragging a wide delivery to his stumps.
At 53/4 in 9 overs, the Kings were staring at their sixth loss this season but Maxwell held fort with his superb innings which was laced with six fours and four sixes to keep them in the hunt in a crucial 67-run partnership from 40 balls with David Miller (13).
But Piyush Chawla (2/27) trapped the Aussie with a wrong one to swing the fortunes for KKR in the 16th over.
There was more drama in store when the Patel smacked Russell to two successive sixes as KXIP needed 12 runs from the last overs but Russell ran out the lefthander in the second ball to seal the issue.
Skipper Gambhir continued his sublime form to notch up his fourth half-century of the season, while his opening partner Uthappa too followed suit for his third fifty as KKR never had any trouble against an innocuous KXIP attack.
There was not a single wicket taking delivery as Vijay had to keep rotating his limited resources while Gambhir and Uthappa easily picked the loose balls on the slow surface.
Restricting KKR to 40 in the powerplay was a decent effort by KXIP but the fact remained that they could not break the opening partnership with their attack lacking the sting.
As it turned out, all the three wickets to fall were runouts beginning with Gambhir, who was dismissed following a misjudgment at the non-striking end in the 14th over.
Gambhir ran half way down the strip but only to turn back realising a non-existent run as Glenn Maxwell’s direct throw gave them their first breakthrough.
In the same over, Uthappa, having completed his half century with a boundary through covers, was dropped by Mohit Sharma at long off boundary.
Uthappa too became the victim of a runout from the nonstriking end after Yusuf remained static at his crease while his partner had run all the way down. It was too late to turn back with Mohit Sharma beating Uthappa with a direct hit at the non-striker’s stumps.
Earlier, Vijay sprang a surprise going ahead with three foreigners with Swapnil Singh and Manan Vohra coming in place for KC Cariappa and Shaun Marsh in the two changes to their XI that beat Gujarat Lions.
KKR picked Brad Hogg ahead of Sunil Narine while Shakib Al Hasan returned in place of Chris Lynn to the XI that beat Royal Challengers Bangalore.