CAPE TOWN: Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR)’s chances of making the semi-finals of the Champions League Twenty20 tournament suffered a major blow as they slumped to their second successive defeat after losing to Auckland Aces by seven wickets in their Group ‘A’ match at the Newlands here on Monday night.
Auckland rode high on veteran Azhar Mahmood’s superb all-round show as they knocked off a modest target of 138 runs with 14 balls to spare.
Former Pakistan all-rounder Azhar, who was instrumental in restricting KKR to 137 for six with brilliant figures of three for 16, also produced an unbeaten knock of 51, which turned out to be crucial in the final outcome of the match.
KKR captain Gautam Gambhir’s decision to induct Shakib Al Hasan at the expense of seasoned Australian fast bowler Brett Lee backfired badly as the reigning IPL champions missed out a genuine paceman on a pitch that was assisting the faster bowlers.
Apart from Azhar, Lou Vincent (30), Martin Guptill (25) and Anaru Kitchen (24) also came up with useful contributions.
Brendon McCullum top-scored for the Knight Riders with a 35-ball 40, which was laced with two sixes and three fours. But the Knight Riders could not build partnerships and lost wickets in regular intervals.
Azhar made inroads into the KKR’s middle-order with his twin strike in the 10th over as he dismissed Jacques Kallis (0) and Manoj Tiwary (0) in successive deliveries to dent the Knight Riders innings, who after the early loss of Gambhir had tried to recover well.
Azhar, in his second spell, removed dangerman McCullum to add to the misery of KKR, who came into this match after being crushed by Delhi Daredevils by 52 runs in their opening tournament fixture on Saturday.
Summarised scores: KOLKATA KNIGHT RIDERS 137-6 in 20 overs (B.B. McCullum 40, M.S. Bisla 38, Yusuf Pathan 22 not out, Shakib Al Hasan 15; Azhar Mahmood 3-16); AUCKLAND ACES 139-3 in 17.4 overs (Azhar Mahmood 51 not out, L. Vincent 30, M.J. Guptill 25, A.K. Kitchen 24; S.P. Narine 2-24).—Agencies