Kolkata: Manvinder Bisla struck a magnificent 51 not out off 44 balls 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 adding 72 runs for the fourth wicket, and by the time Morgan got out for 42 off 26 balls, Kolkata were almost home needing just two to win.
Earlier after electing to bat, Punjab got up a solid opening stand of 45 runs with Mandeep Singh taking on the aggressor's role and Gilchrist rotating the strike. However, both departed in quick succession for 25 and 27 respectively, bringing the run-rate down considerably. Mandeep fell to Kallis, while Gilchrist was removed by Rajat Bhatia. Manan Vohra, who has impressed one and all with his attacking skills in his first season, provided the impetus the visitors' innings needed with a 21-ball 31 before Laxmipathy Balaji got him caught behind.
The biggest jolt to Punjab's hopes of a good total came when the in-form David Miller went back to the pavilion after scoring just 10. He missed the line of a Sarabjit Ladda delivery while attempting a cut, and saw his stumps rattle. Veteran David Hussey, who had just begun to open his arms, and Mahmood then departed in quick succession for 21 and two respectively to put the visitors' innings in a big spot of bother.
However, Gurkeerat Singh Mann rose to the occasion scoring 18 off the last over bowled by Balaji to finish the Punjab innings (149 for 6) on a high note. Gurkeerat remained unbeaten on 28 off 15 balls. Among the Kolkata bowlers, Kallis was at his stingiest best returning with figures of 2 for 14, while Ladda and Bhatia got one wicket each.