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Allround Azhar leads Auckland to easy win against Kolkata Knight Riders

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Former Pakistan allrounder Azhar Mahmood continued to show that his utility in the shortest format of the game had aged like a fine wine, leading the Auckland Aces to yet another comfortable win, once again shining with both bat and ball. This time it was the IPL Champions the Kolkata Knight Riders who bore the brunt of Azhar's assault as the superstar picked up 3 crucial wickets at the top of the order to help restrict KKR to a paltry 137-6 in their 20 overs before stroking his way to his second half-century of the tourney to help the Aces knock off the runs with 14 balls and 7 wickets to spare. The defeat is a real disaster for KKR, who are now virtually on their way home, needing to win not just their last two group games, but also praying for a whole array of results to go their way.

The day started on a positive note for the Kolkata Knight Riders as they won the toss and opted to make first use of the pitch in Cape Town. Kolkata made a shock edit to their line-up, axing arguably their best bowler from the previous game Brett Lee in favour of Bangladeshi allrounder Shakib-Al-Hasan. Lakshmipathy Balaji, who had a poor game last time out, and Jacques Kallis, who appeared to be struggling with injuries, both kept their places in the side. Auckland meanwhile stuck to their winning combination.

KKR made another poor start, losing Gautam Gambhir for just 5 caught brilliantly by Martin Guptill off Michael Bates. Manvinder Bisla and Brendon McCullum resurected the innings, sharing in a 62 run stand for the 2nd wicket at a very healthy clip.

Bisla contributed 38 from just 24 balls Ronnie Hira got the better of the wicketkeeper batsman and had him caught in the deep. Kolkata then lost wickets in a heap with Jacques Kallis and Manoj Tiwary falling on consecutive deliveries for a pair of ducks to Pakistani veteran Azhar Mahmood. The incredible allrounder then added the huge wicket of McCullum to his kitty, caught behind for 40.

A couple of overs later Kyle Mills removed Shakib for 15, leaving KKR in trouble at 108-6. However, Yusuf Pathan (22*) landed some telling blows late in the innings to push the score on to a respectable 137-6 in their 20 overs.

The Auckland Aces were easily the happier of the two sides at the break, having battled back from 72-1 half-way through the 9th over to limit KKR to less than double that score.

The Aces stormed out of the blocks after the interval, carrying forward the momentum from their bowling effort. Lou Vincent in particular looked in terrific form and took Balaji for 17 in the opening over of the innings. Shakib Al Hasan shared the new ball and went for another 14 as Auckland stormed into pole position in this contest. The magic of Sunil Narine needed to be called upon early, and the West Indian mystery spinner delivery right away, removing Vincent for a brilliant 12-ball 30. The Aces finished the powerplay at 51-1 in 6 overs, looking very much on top in the chase.

Runs continued to come at a healthy pace as the field spread as the Aces stayed firmly in control of the run chase. Martin Guptill threw his wicket away rather unnecessarily failling for 25 to the returning Balaji, but in Azhar Mahmood the Aces had a player who knew how to construct a run chase and kept his side firmly in the driver's seat.

Anaru Kitchen came out and threw his bat around to boost the run rate further. At the end of 13 overs, Auckland were cruising to an easy win at 107-2. Kitchen fell to the returning Sunil Narine for 24 to give KKR a window of hope.

However, all hope was extinguished by the exceptional Mahmood, who struck a fantastic half-century to follow up his 3 wicket haul to set up an excellent 7 wicket win.

Auckland will next turn their attention towards the Titans on Wednesday, while KKR will hope to restore some pride when they take on the Perth Scorchers at the same venue later in the day.


Kolkata Knight Riders: Manvinder Bisla (wk), Gautam Gambhir (c), Brendon McCullum, Jacques Kallis, Shakib Al Hasan, Manoj Tiwary, Yusuf Pathan, Rajat Bhatia, Pradeep Sangwan, Sunil Narine, L Balaji.

Auckland Aces: Martin Guptill, Lou Vincent, Azhar Mahmood, Anaru Kitchen, Gareth Hopkins (c & wk), Colin Munro, Colin de Grandhomme, Ronnie Hira, Kyle Mills, Andre Adams, Michael Bates.

Mini Scorecard:

Kolkata Knight Riders 137-6 (20 overs, 6.85rpo)
B McCullum 40 (35) A Mahmood 3-16
M Bisla 38 (24) K Mills 1-23

Auckland Aces 139-3 (17.4 overs, 7.86rpo)
A Mahmood 50* (42) S Narine 2-24
L Vincent 30 (12) L Balaji 1-38

Auckland win by 7 wickets with 14 balls to spare