Mumbai, May 19 : Kolkata Knight Riders kept their hopes of qualifying for the IPL play-offs on track with a comfortable seven-wicket victory over out-of-reckoning Pune Warriors at the D Y Patil Stadium here tonight.
The visitors first shackled the home team batsmen with their three-pronged spin attack and restricted the Warriors to a meagre 118 for seven and then reached the target by making 119 for three in 16.4 overs.
Skipper Gautam Gambhir led the victory charge driving with elan in his fine, unbeaten innings of 54 in 46 balls with seven fours while Yusuf Pathan made a brisk 29 in 25 balls to guide the home team to a thumping victory. Manoj Tiwary made 24 in as many balls earlier.Pathan, who also took two wickets, was declared the man of the match.
The third wicket partnership of 64 runs in 8.1 overs between Gambhir and Pathan, who was out when two runs were needed for victory, laid low the Warriors' lukewarm challenge.
It was the Knight Riders' eighth victory in 13 games and boosted their tally to 16, the same as Mumbai Indians who have one extra game in hand. The Kolkata franchise would take on Mumbai in their concluding round robin tie on May 22 at home.
Chennai Super Kings (18) and Royal Challengers Bangalore (17) lead the points table while Kings XI Punjab, the only other team in contention, have 14 with one game in hand.
It was yet another pathetic batting display by the Warriors after they were invited to bat first by Knight Riders skipper Gambhir.Captain Yuvraj Singh, who came in at number 6, made the top score of 24 in another spineless batting display by the Warriors who have one more game at hand against Kings XI Punjab on Saturday away from home to conclude their debut season.
Chasing the modest score of 118, the Knight Riders lost an early wicket in opener Sreevats Goswami who fell in the first over. But a first wicket stand of 46 runs between captain Gambhir and Manoj Tiwary (24 in 24 balls) set them off on the track.
Tiwary departed in the eighth over when the score read 53, chopping Bhuvaneswar Kumar on to his stumps. Gambhir and Pathan, who hit three fours and one six, then put on 64 runs to put their side on way to the modest target.
Pathan was especially harsh on the accurate Rahul Sharma and hit the leggie for three fours in two overs to maintain the desired run-rate. He also hooked Bhuvaneshwar Kumar for a six.
Gambhir, who played sensibly, and Pathan made sure that the Warriors did not get a whiff of a come back.Earlier, the Warriors struggled against the Kolkata spinners on a spinning track that was also a tad too slow for their liking and slumped to 17 for two initially and never recovered from the poor beginning.
Manish Pandey (16), Callum Ferguson (16) and Sourav Ganguly (18) frittered away decent starts along with the under-performing Robin Uthappa (12) after Jesse Ryder was packed off for one in the eighth ball of their innings.
Yuvraj (24) and Sachin Rana (18), playing his first match, gave some late fillip to the sagging innings during their stand of 34 for the sixth wicket - the highest of the innings. But the overall batting effort was clearly below expectations.
All the batsmen struggled to get on the offensive against the visiting team's spin trio of Pathan, Iqbal Abdulla and Shakib Al Hasan who picked up five wickets among them.
Pathan and Bangladesh skipper Shakib bagged two wickets apiece along with Laxmipathy Balaji who got both his wickets in the only over he bowled, the final one.
Ryder failed to get going and was snapped up in the second over following a rush of blood against Pathan and was caught at mid-off.
Pandey, who looked to be in good touch, did not last long after the fall of his opening partner and departed in the fourth for 16, trapped leg before by left arm spinner Iqbal Abdulla's arm ball.
The struggle continued for the hosts when Ganguly, who was given a loud cheer by the huge crowd when he came out to bat against his old team, found it difficult to time the ball along with Ferguson.
Ferguson pulled Jaques Kallis for a four and got lucky when a mistimed shot fetched him another four to improve the run-rate slightly.
But he too was dismissed for 16 in the ninth over when Shakib Al Hasan turned the ball away from his advanced bat and had him stumped easily by Sreevats Goswami who was brought in the team today in place of Mark Boucher.
Ganguly at last showed a glimpse of his old self when he hoisted Abdulla over long on for the first six of the innings to raise the 50 in the tenth over.
Uthappa, promoted ahead of captain Yuvraj, hit a reverse hit four and was lucky to be let off by Laxmipathy Balaji at deep mid wicket off Rajat Bhatia in the 12th over.
Ganguly, not really in his elements, made his exit when he swept Shakib straight to a leaping Pathan backward of square inside the ring in the 13th over.
He and Uthappa put on 27 runs for the fourth wicket. The latter too departed eight balls later when his attempt to slog sweep Pathan failed as Lee brought off a good catch on the boundary line to reduce the Warriors 79 for five.
Yuvraj was out off the last over bowled by Balaji,miscuing a leg side swing to wicket keeper Goswami. He hit only two fours in his 26-ball essay. Rana was yorked by the lanky medium pacer off the last ball. PTI