Dinesh Karthik smashed a quickfire 69 as Kings XI Punjab overcame initial and middle overs stutter to thump Kochi Tuskers Kerala by six wickets and keep themselves in contention for a play-off berth in the Indian Premier League, in Indore on Friday.
Chasing a stiff 179, Kings XI Punjab struggled at the start, with openers Paul Valthaty (17) and Adam Gilchrist (9) falling cheaply inside five overs for just 31 runs before Karthik and Shaun Marsh (42) helped the side win the match, with seven balls to spare, in a 111-run third wicket stand in 9.3 overs.
David Hussey (21 not out from 15 balls) finished the run chase in style with a six off Ravindra Jadeja as KXIP reached 181 for four in 18.5 overs, to take his side to their fifth win in 11 matches.
Karthik smashed seven fours and five sixes in his 33-ball knock while Marsh hit five fours and two sixes from 30 balls to set up the win on a batting-friendly pitch at the Holkar Stadium, which hosted their first IPL match.
Pacer R P Singh grabbed a superb 4/25 to threaten to win the match for Kochi but the Punjab batsmen were up to the task.
With the win, KXIP remained in contention for a play-off berth as they jumped to sixth spot with 10 points with three matches remaining.
Kochi, on the other hand, are virtually knocked out of the tournament with 10 points from 12 matches. They have two matches remaining.
Punjab's opening stand yielded just 25 runs in 2.5 overs with Valthaty falling victim to R P Singh after making a promising start, hitting two sixes in consecutive balls in the third over.
Valthaty's middle stump was knocked off as the ball went through the gap between bat and pad. The Punjab opener, who faced 10 balls and hit a four and two sixes, failed once again after promising a lot early in the tournament.
Gilchrist, who was struggling in his 15-ball stay, departed with a soft dismissal as he holed out to Parthiv Patel and Punjab were 31 for two in the fifth over when he left.
One-down Marsh and Karthik, who came in at the fall of Gilchrist, however, revived the innings with a century-plus stand for the third wicket.
Marsh hit three fours in the sixth over bowled by S Sreesanth as Punjab were 49 for two after the first power play.
Karthik then smote Vinay Kumar for a six and a four in consecutive balls.
Marsh and Karthik took calculated risk to find the boundaries as KXIP reached 84 for two at the halfway mark. The in-form Australian put the pressure on opposition side with two sixes off compatriot Brad Hodge in the 12th over with one sailing inches above a leaping Sreesanth as Punjab took 19 runs from that over.
As if competing each other, Karthik then reached to his third IPL fifty with a six off Jadeja and then followed it up next ball with another hit for maximum result to take 16 runs from the 13th over and bring down the asking rate to less than seven per over.
Just as Punjab looked like they would chase down the stiff target in quick time, Karthik departed with R P Singh removing him in the first ball of his second spell and his last over.
R P Singh removed Marsh five balls later, caught and bowled to give a twist to the match. From 142 from two, were 145 for four in the space of an over.
Punjab needed 30 from four overs but David Hussey got able support from Mandeep Singh (15 not out from 10 balls) to chase down the target.
Earlier, captain Mahela Jayawardene led from the front with a classy 76 as Kochi post 178 for seven.
Opening with Brendon McCullum (32), Jayawardene held the innings together with a responsible 52-ball knock which was studded with eight fours and two sixes in Kochi's 'home' match.
Kochi made a rollicking start after being put into bat, with openers Jayawardene and McCullum stitching 93 runs in just 8.4 overs on a batting-friendly pitch.
At the halfway stage, KTK were 103 for one and they looked like crossing 200 only to fritter away the superb start and ended less than 180.
Jayawardene was run out in the last ball of the innings while running for a second as his side added just 75 in the second 10 overs while losing six wickets.
For Punjab, who made a fine comeback in the second part of the Kochi innings, left-arm spinner Bipul Sharma was the most successful bowler with 2/32 while Ryan Harris, Shalabh Srivastava and Piyush Chawla took a wicket each.
Jayawardene and McCullum were in a punishing mood, hitting the Punjab bowlers all over the park in the initial overs on a ground, which had short boundaries and fast outfield.
The duo reached to 50 in just 5.2 overs and Kochi were 62 for no loss after the first powerplay of six overs.
Bipul Sharma finally gave Punjab the breakthrough in the ninth over removing McCullum, LBW after the batsman missed the line while playing a sweep shot. McCullum hit two fours and as many sixes in his 27-ball stay at crease.
Ravindra Jadeja (17), who came in at the fall of McCullum, smote Chawla for a huge six in the second ball he faced but was lucky to get a reprieve as he was dropped by Paul Valthaty at the slip in the third delivery.
Kochi maintained their 10-run per over rate as they reached 103 for one after the halfway mark and Jayawardene reached to his fifty in style with a six off Chawla in the 12th over.
His fifty, third in IPL 4 from 12 matches, came from just 30 balls and studded with six fours and three sixes.
Kochi lost momentum after the fall of the first wicket with Jadeja out LBW in the 14th over off Chawla and David Hussey (4) following suit after two overs, holing out to Shaun Marsh at midwicket.
Scoring rate dropped and despite Owais Shah's 12-ball 23, which was studded with two sixes and a four, KTK could not go past their highest total -- 184 for two against Mumbai -- while batting first in the tournament so far.
Shah was run out in the penultimate over while going for a cheeky second run while Parthiv Patel was dismissed for a duck in the first ball he faced.