Kolkata, May 9: Andre Russell smashed the joint fastest fifty of the season as Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) pulled off a heart-stopping 1-wicket win over Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) to jump to the top of the IPL 2015 table and virtually seal a spot in the playoffs, here today.
Fortunes fluctuated like a pendulum in the contest which went to the wire as Piyush Chawla (18) struck a vital six off Anureet Singh to take defending champions closer to the target of 184 and eventually they prevailed with one ball left.
KKR were gasping at 83 for 4 at one stage and the required runrate had shot past 12 with 98 runs required from last eight overs. From there Russell and Yusuf Pathan (29) put on 53 runs from 25 balls for the fifth wicket to turn the match around.
4 sixes from Russell
Russell slammed five fours and four sixes in his 21-ball 51 as he equalled Harbhajan Singh's fastest fifty (from 19 balls) this season.
Pathan provided perfect support from the other end to the Jamaican who unleashed his fury in front of a packed home support to take them near.
There was never a clear winner as wickets kept falling but KKR kept nearing the target and eventually eight runs were required from the last over.
KKR lost two wickets in three balls including that of Chawla, leaving Narine at the crease to score one run from two balls.
The left-hander held his nerve and played a flick shot, did not connect and took the winning run from the legbye to seal his side a thrilling win.
3 wins in a row for KKR at home
KKR thus ended their homeleg winning three matches on the trot and jumped to the top spot of the table with 15 points from 12 matches, while KXIP remained at the bottom (four from 11), suffering seventh straight loss.
Earlier, Gambhir had KKR them a brisk start in the powerplay with 57/1 in the first six overs but introduction of spin put on the brakes.
Left-arm spinner Patel gave away just two runs from his first over, while offie Gurkeerat was tidier with just one run to tighten the proceedings.
As a result Manish Pandey tried to break free in the next over but only to mistime Maxwell and was caught by Patel. Gurkeerat gave the big breakthrough in Gambhir the next over to derail KKR's run chase.
Pathetic fielding by KKR
Earlier KKR were pathetic while fielding as they dropped as many as five catches, letting Punjab posted a challenging 183 for 5.
On a day their trump card spinner Sunil Narine was back to his best, claiming 4/19 after a month-long controversy surrounding his bowling action. The mystery spinner looked to have his guile back as the batsmen looked tentative and gave regular breakthroughs.
Glenn Maxwell led the show with a 22-ball 43 (4x4, 3x6) as all the top five batsmen - Murali Vijay (28), Manan Vohra (39), Wriddhiman Saha (33) and David Miller (27) - contributed handsomely to the team's cause.
The Aussie found his reverse sweep scoops to perfection as he batted with disdain against spinners Chawla and Brad Hogg as no one other than Narine looked impressive.
KXIP seized the momentum from KKR early on when the home team skipper Gambhir gave Murali Vijay the first of his three reprieves on 1.
Gambhir at extra cover reacted slowly as the ball went through his right hand in the very first over in which Umesh Yadav conceded just two runs.
Vijay went for the kill in the second over of the Indian speedster as he slammed three fours and one six for 18 runs to derail KKR early on.
Narine was brought in the fourth over and this time Hogg let one slip at square leg with Vijay on 21 while Yadav gave the Punjab opener a third reprieve on 24.
Severely let down by his butter-fingered fielders, Narine finally gave the breakthrough when he caught Vijay off his own bowling to complete a tidy second spell (2-0-8-1).
Vohra dropped twice
Vohra was dropped twice - on 19 by wicketkeeper Robin Uthappa and on 29 by Yusuf Pathan - to make it five on the day.
Nothing going their way on the field, KKR had to rely heavily on Narine as he was brought back in the 11th over and the wily spinner returned the faith by claiming Vohra in an
identical caught-and-bowled dismissal.
Narine's effort was not enough as KXIP batsmen attacked the other bowlers and at one point when Maxwell and Saha were batting during their 65-run third wicket partnership it seemed KXIP would breach the 200-mark.
Narine returned again to complete his quota in the 17th over and once again arrested the run-rate, this time with a twin blow in form of Maxwell and Saha but KXIP had by then posted a challenging target.