Kolkata Knight Riders kept their hopes of qualifying for the IPL play-offs on alive with a comfortable seven-wicket victory over out-of-reckoning Pune Warriors at the D Y Patil Stadium in Mumbai on Thursday night.
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, scoring 119 for three in 16.4 overs.
Skipper Gautam Gambhir led the victory charge with a fine, unbeaten knock of 54 off 46 balls, inclusive of with seven fours, while Yusuf Pathan made a brisk 29 off 25 balls to guide the home team to a thumping victory.
Manoj Tiwary scored a vital 24 off 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 with two runs were needed for victory, doused 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 takes 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, has 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, top scored with 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.
Chasing the modest 118, 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) put them on course.
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 the 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 comeback.
Earlier, the Warriors struggled against the Kolkata spinners on a turning 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 a late fillip to the sagging innings during a 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 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 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 gave 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 attempted slog sweep off 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 wicketkeeper Goswami. He hit only two fours in his 26-ball essay. Rana was yorked by the lanky medium pacer off the last ball.