Defending champions Kolkata Riders scored a convincing 46-run win over an ever-struggling Pune Warriors here today, to keep alive their outside hopes of qualifying for the play-off stage of the ongoing Pepsi Indian Premier League.
Opting to bat, KKR first rode on skipper Gautam Gambhir's 50 and a late surge by Ryan ten Doeschate (31 off 21) to post a challenging 152 for six, and then dished out a clinical bowling performance to bowl out Pune for 106 in 19.3 overs.
By virtue of this win, KKR has moved up to 10 points from 12 games. But in order to stand in with an outside chance of making it to the play-offs, the defending champions need to win all their remaining three games.
Pune witnessed a horrible start to their run chase as their batsmen found the going tough against a disciplined KKR attack and scored just 41 runs for the loss of three wickets at the halfway stage.
Pune lost skipper Aaron Finch, star player Yuvraj Singh and Udit Birla in quick succession. While Finch was bowled by Jacques Kallis (2/27), Yuvraj nicked an away going Laxmipathy Balaji (3/19) delivery to Manvinder Bisla behind the stumps.
Udit Birla's stay at the crease was a struggle which finally came to an end when Iqbal Abdulla (2/26) went through his defence.
Robin Uthappa (31 off 35) tried hard to hung in there but the ever-climbing asking rate finally took its toll on him. He was caught by Gambhir at backward point off Abdulla.
Angelo Mathews played a rearguard 28-ball 40-run knock but that was not enough to save Pune from slumping to its 11th defeat in the tournament. Mathews decorated his innings with four huge sixes before perishing in search of quick runs.
Earlier, Pune wasted a good start by leaking runs in the death overs to allow Kolkata Knight Riders post the challenging total.
KKR were in a spot of bother at 99 for five at one stage, but Pune bowlers gave away a whopping 53 runs in the final four overs to help the visitors cross the 150-run mark.
KKR reached fifty in quick time after electing to bat, thanks mainly to Gambhir (50 off 44). Pune bowlers, however, managed to put brakes on KKR's scoring by picking up wickets at regular intervals.
Bisla (12) was the first to depart stumped by Mahesh Rawat off Bhuvneshwar Kumar (3/25).
Off-spinner Parveez Rasool (1/23), the first cricketer from Jammu and Kashmir to play in the IPL, leaked nine runs in his opening over.
But Rasool came back strongly in the next over and dismissed big man Kallis to pick up his first wicket of the tournament. Kallis was caught by Mathews at short cover of a fuller delivery from the off-spinner.
Gambhir, however, was steady at the other end and notched up his fifty in 43 balls with the help of six boundaries. But Mitchell Marsh's (2/7) two wickets in two overs changed the equation.
Marsh first accounted for Eoin Morgan, who scored a run-a-ball 15, and then an over later he picked up the crucial wicket of Gambhir, caught by Mathews.
Yusuf Pathan too did not help his side's cause as he departed cheaply. He edged one to wicket-keeper Rawat off Kumar while going for a booming cut.
With KKR in a tight corner, it took a quickfire knock from ten Doeschate, who played his first IPL match this year, to bail the visitors out. ten Doeschate used his long handle to great effect and smashed Mathews for a six and two fours to pick up 17 runs off the 17th over.
Ten Doeschate and Manoj Tiwary added 38 runs in 3 overs to provide some momentum to KKR's innings. Ten Doeschate finally perished, caught by Krishnakant Uphadyay off Kumar but not before decorating his 21-ball knock with three fours and one six.
Towards the end, Tiwary (15 not out off 10) and Rajat Bhatia (13 not out off 5) played short cameos to help KKR.