Manvinder Bisla and Eoin Morgan provided a lifeline to defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders as the home team cruised to a comfortable six-wicket victory over Kings XI Punjab in a Pepsi Indian Premier League match here today.
En route to their third win in the cash-rich league, KKR chased a target of 150 with 10 balls to spare courtesy an unbeaten 51 off 44 balls (3x4, 3x6) from Bisla and a smashing 42 off 26 balls ( 3x4, 4x6) by Morgan. The duo blasted 72 runs in just over seven overs to pave the way for a smooth victory.
The win takes KKR to six points but they remain in seventh position in the league table.
Having been dropped after their shocking four-run loss to the same side in the first leg, it was a redemption time for Bisla, who also shared a crucial 66 runs with Jacques Kallis (37).
It was Manoj Tiwary's absence because of a split webbing paved the way for Bisla who showed glimpses of his last year's form in the final against Chennai Super Kings that had crowned them 2012 champions.
For the Kings XI Punjab's perspective, Mandeep dropping Bisla's catch when he had not even opened his account proved to be the big difference.
After being let down by Mandeep, Mahmood quickly turned the game around with two wickets from two balls when he bowled Gambhir and followed it up with an easy dismissal of an out-of-form Yusuf Pathan.
But for a change, the Knight Riders who were tottering at 10/2 showed some fine application with Bisla grabbing the opportunity in his comeback match.
Bisla took the challenge as he counter-attacked Mahmood when he stepped out to hit a six.
After returning with two wickets in first over, Mahmood conceded 12 runs in his second as the experienced Kallis too complemented well.
Bisla hit another six when he smashed Praveen over cover as the duo ensured a fine recovery stitching 66 runs for the third wicket.
Earlier, opting to bat, Kings XI Punjab put up a decent batting display to notch 149 for six against Kolkata Knight Riders.
Manan Vohra (31, 21 balls) top scored for the Kings, as almost everybody in the line-up -- Adam Gilchrist (27), Mandeep Singh (25), David Hussey (21) made small contributions.
It was Gurkeerat Singh's 15-ball unbeaten 28 studded with two boundaries and an equal number of sixes that took them to a fighting total.
On a day when the Knight Riders spin ploy did not work, Jacques Kallis (4-0-14-2) with two crucial wickets of Mandeep and Hussey ensured that the home side had their moments and did not let the Kings off the hook.
It was one of the rare day when Purple Cap holder Sunil Narine went wicketless (4-0-22-0), while Sachithra Senanayake and leg-spinner Sarabjit Ladda conceded 47 runs from six overs together.
Balaji (one for 44) conceded 18 runs in the last over with two sixes and one four, bearing the brunt of Gurkeerat Singh (28 not out from 15 balls; 2x4, 2x6) that took Kings to a competitive total.
Put in to bat, Kings XI made a slow but sensible start as Gilchrist took time to settle down while talented Mandeep scored briskly with some elegant shots.
Lucky to survive a runout at the non-striking end, Gilchrist played Senanayake watchfully as the KKR off-spinner began with a maiden.
Mandeep however played freely hitting Balaji for two boundaries before charging out to Narine for the same effect to keep the scoreboard ticking.
Gilchrist soon got into the act when he took on Senanayake resulting in 12 runs as they were 45 for no loss at the end of Powerplay.
It was then smart captaincy from Gambhir, who brought in Kallis immediately after six overs, which helped in breaking the partnership.
Kallis, who had an injury scare in the previous match after twisting his knee, struck in his very first ball dismissing the inform Mandeep.
The SA all-rounder smartly used his bouncers and varied his pace as he was quite economical, even as the spinners trio of Narine, Senanayake and Ladda were expensive to start with.
Just when a set-looking Gilchrist looked to break free by hitting Bhatia over midwicket, the Knight Riders had another breakthrough.
In what turned out to be a soft dismissal, Gilchrist who in his prime time would have cleared the park with his pull found Morgan's safe hands to continue his miserable outing.
But to the Kings' delight, there was no panic in the middle. Vohra played a fine cameo with one six and three fours before being dismissed by Balaji as the Kings XI maintained a seven-plus scoring rate.
If his poor run with the bat wasn't enough, Yusuf even leaked runs while on the field conceding a boundary.