Opener Robin Uthappa smashed his way to a quickfire half-century as Kolkata Knight Riders notched up a comfortable six-wicket victory over Kings XI Punjab in the Indian Premier League in Mohali, on Tuesday.
Put into bat, Kings XI Punjab were restricted to 138 for eight in their stipulated 20 overs at the Punjab Cricket Association IS Bindra Stadium.
Led by Uthappa's blazing knock of 53 off 28 balls, the visitors chased down the target of 139 with 17 balls to spare. KKR skipper Gautam Gambhir continued to be among the runs, scoring 34 off as many deliveries.
Uthappa raced to his half-century from just 24 balls, before leg-spinner Pradeep Sahu had him trapped in front of wicket to end a fluent opening wicket partnership of 82 runs in just under nine overs.
The wicketkeeper-batsman, who had held catches and whose fastest IPL fifty came off 19 balls in 2010 when he played for Royal Challengers Bangalore, tonight struck nine boundaries during his breezy knock.
By the time Uthappa was heading back to the dugout, KKR were firmly in the driver's seat, having reached 93 for one midway into their chase.
Eyeing their third win of the season, KKR required 46 runs in the back 10 with Gambhir in control of the proceedings.
But just then, Gambhir fell to a brilliant catch by Glenn Maxwell, who ran in from the boundary and dived forward before holding on to complete a sharp catch. The Australian anticipated well and timed his full-stretched forward dive to perfection and pulled off the catch inches from the ground.
Owing to Uthappa's assault, Kings XI Punjab bowlers Sandeep Sharma, Kyle Abbott, Mohit Sharma and Maxwell all suffered and conceded nearly 20 runs each in their first couple of overs.
Sahu was the most impressive of Punjab bowlers, returning figures of two for 18 in four overs. Axar Patel claimed the wickets of Manish Pandey (12) and Shakib Al Hasan (11) in successive overs but KKR were not affected.
Yusuf Pathan (12) and Suryakumar Yadav (11) were at the crease as KKR completed another comfortabl victory to jump to the top of the points table.
Earlier, Kolkata Knight Riders produced a disciplined bowling effort to restrict Kings XI Punjab to a modest 138 for eight.
Shaun Marsh top-scored for the hosts with an unbeaten 56 off 41 balls. The Australian struck five boundaries and a six during his stay in the middle in a rather mediocre outing by the Kings XI Punjab batting line-up.
For KKR, Sunil Narine finished with impressive figures of two for 22, while Morne Morkel claimed two for 27 to bundle out their opponents for a below-par total.
The total could have been much lesser had it not been for the 18 runs which came from the final over bowled by Andre Russell, with Marsh and Kyle Abbott (12 not off six balls) scoring some vital run to add some respectability to the total.
Asked to bat after KKR skipper Gautam Gambhir had won the toss, Punjab's batsmen struggled to get going in the beginning, losing Manan Vohra (8) early, in the fourth over of the innings.
Experienced opener Murali Vijay scored a fluent 26 from 22 balls before he was foxed by a googly from leg-spinner Piyush Chawla and was bowled.
Wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha was promoted to No. 4 but the India Test wicketkeeper did not last long and became Sunil Narine's first victim in IPL 9 when he was caught behind for eight. The West Indian mystery spinner was making a comeback following his suspension from cricket in November last year for bowling with an illegal action. His remodelled action was only cleared by the International Cricket Council, just two days before the start of IPL.
The hosts were dealt a body blow when part-time off-spinner Yusuf Pathan had skipper David Miller (6) caught behind with a delivery that cramped him for room.
Things only got worse for Kings XI Punjab as Narine sent back the dangerous Glenn Maxwell (4) whose switch hit was pouched by Chawla in the covers.
Even as the slide continued for the hosts, Australian left-hander Marsh kept the runs coming from his end.
What badly affected the home side was the lack of partnership through the innings with no one staying long enough to support Marsh.