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Kolkata fail again

Azhar Mahmood’s performance trumped that of Sunil Narine.

Another solid performance by West Indies off-spinner Sunil Narine (2 for 24) at Cape Town today was over-shadowed by a high impact all-round performance from Azhar Mahmood, his second of this Champions League Twenty20, to give qualifiers Auckland Aces their third comprehensive victory in South Africa, and severely damaged Narine’s Kolkata Knight Riders’ prospects of progress in the tournament.

Mahmood’s timely wickets and composed innings during the chase, which was supported by several top-order cameos, led Auckland to the target with 14 balls to spare, a considerable boost to their net run rate.

While this was Auckland’s first match of the Champions League proper, it was Kolkata’s second, and a second defeat left the IPL champions needing to win both their remaining games, while keeping an eye on run rate, in order to make the semi-finals from Group A.

After winning the toss on a cold and windy day in Cape Town, Kolkata looked like setting a formidable total on two occasions, and both times they were stymied by Mahmood.

Gautam Gambhir had fallen early – caught by Martin Guptill diving low and to his left at point – but despite the new ball seaming and bouncing, Manvinder Bisla and Brendon McCullum had begun finding the boundary regularly. They got to 72 for 1 in the ninth over when left-arm spinner Ronnie Hira made the breakthrough by having Bisla caught at long-off, and then it was over to Mahmood

In his first over, Mahmood had Jacques Kallis caught at slip and Manoj Tiwary caught and bowled off successive deliveries, reducing Kolkata to 72 for 4. His two-over spell contained a maiden and returned figures of 2 for 7.

The loss of those wickets forced McCullum and Shakib Al Hasan to consolidate and Auckland were able to drag the run rate from 8 down to just above six and a half per over.

McCullum was Auckland’s major threat and he began to break free with a tremendous six against Andre Adams, charging the medium pacer and smashing him beyond the midwicket boundary. Gareth Hopkins brought Mahmood back for the next over – the 15th – and he had McCullum edging behind with the third ball.

Shakib didn’t last much longer, toe ending a slash off Kyle Mills to deep cover to be dismissed for 15 off 22. He didn’t come off with the bat and his selection ahead of Brett Lee on a pitch that had seam movement and bounce was questionable.

From 108 for 6 in the 17th over, Yusuf Pathan wasn’t able to provide the kind of acceleration he’s done on occasion during the IPL. He managed to pull twice in succession for fours, in the 18th over bowled by Michael Bates, but Kolkata found the boundary only once in the last two overs.

Mahmood finished with 3 for 16 in his four overs, after he had taken a five-for to knock out Hampshire in the qualifying stage.

Chasing 138, Lou Vincent waylaid Kolkata. In the first over, bowled by L Balaji, Vincent smashed over mid-off and clipped over midwicket for fours, before hitting a towering six over long-on. He slog swept Shakib for another six to blast Auckland to 31 for 0 after two overs.

Realising Kolkata needed wickets and fast, Gambhir gave Narine the third over and the spinner had Vincent top edging to square leg the ball after conceding a boundary.

Mahmood (51 not out) joined Guptill and the pair used the buffer provided by Vincent’s aggression to accumulate steadily. Narine accounted for Anaru Kitchen after Guptill was dismissed by Balaji as well, but it was all a little too late for his side. (Cricinfo)

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