Mahela Jayawardene cracked an unbeaten 59-ball 110 to power Kings XI Punjab to a comprehensive eight-wicket victory over Kolkata Knight Riders in a high-scoring Indian Premier League match here on Sunday.
Chasing a stiff 201 for a win, Kings XI were never under pressure with Jayawardene playing a blistering innings which had 14 boundaries and three sixes in it as the visitors romped home with 10 balls to spare.
Jayawardene’s unbeaten century, the fourth in IPL 3, overshadowed a 42-ball 88 from Kolkata Knight Riders’ opener Chris Gayle after the home side opted to bat first at the Eden Gardens.
The Sri Lankan, who was sent out to open with Manvinder Bisla, was though dropped when on 80.
Yuvraj’s Singh’s cameo of 16-ball 36, which was laced with two fours and three sixes, gave the final push in the run chase of Kings XI who notched up 204 for two in 18.2 overs.
Captain Kumar Sangakkara chipped in with a 22-ball 38. Earlier, a hurricane 42-ball 88 from Chris Gayle powered Kolkata Knight Riders to 200 for three, their highest IPL 3 total.
With Sunday’s win, Kings XI snapped their harrowing four-match losing streak and recorded their second win in nine matches though their semifinal hopes were virtually over.
For KKR, it was their fifth loss in nine matches, though they are still in contention for a semifinal spot.
With Jayawardene was at his best, Kings XI Punjab began the run chase without any pressure.
He found boundaries and sixes with ease and never really seemed to be bogged down by pressure both from the high required run-rate and the boisterous Eden crowd supporting the Kolkata Knight Riders.
Home team captain Sourav Ganguly kept on rotating his bowlers but without any luck. There was a difficult chance in the fourth over off the bowling off rookie pacer Jaydev Unadkat when Bisla edged one but it was out of reach of Wriddhiman Saha’s dive.
Bisla however did not last long as he was bowled by Murali Kartik in the very next over. Punjab were 51 for one after 4.5 overs then but Jayawardene remained undeterred as he along with captain Sangakkara kept scoring at a healthy run-rate.
Jayawardene took 17 runs off Gayle’s first over — and sixth of KKR — by smashing the West Indian for two boundaries and a six to keep up the tempo.
With his Lankan skipper giving a fine support at the other end, Jayawardene kept on scoring runs at ease. He completed his half-century from 26 balls with six fours and two sixes.
KKR managed to break the 98-run all-Lankan second wicket partnership when fast bowler Shane Bond dismissed Sangakkara for 38 in the 14th over but it was too late by then with the visitors needing just over eight runs per over for a victory with eight wickets in hand.
Sangakkara had two fours and as many sixes in his 22-ball 38.
With just 52 needed from 38 balls when Yuvraj came in at the fall of Sanagakkara, it was just a formality for Kings XI.
Yuvraj ensured that Kings XI finished their job in quick time as he hit a flurry of fours and sixes though it was Jayawardene who scored the winning run, a four off rookie left-arm pacer Jaydev Unadkat.
All the seven KKR bowlers leaked runs. Bond and Kartik took one wicket apiece by conceding 32 and 41 runs respectively from four overs each.
Earlier, Gayle smashed eight sixes and six fours in his blistering knock of 88 to power KKR to 200 for three.
The West Indies opener and Manoj Tiwary (35 from 32 balls) added 101 runs for the second wicket, while captain Sourav Ganguly chipped in with a 31-ball 36.
KKR’s previous highest in IPL 3 was also against the Punjab side when they scored 183 for five for a winning cause in Mohali.
Having opted to rest big-hitting Kiwi opener Brendon McCullum, who joined the squad on Saturday, KKR began positively with Ganguly looking in his silken touch.
Continuing from where he left in the last match, Ganguly hardly took any time to settle down and found his sweet timing with boundaries flowing from his blade.
He hit two boundaries in the first over bowled by Irfan Pathan and went on to launch Shalabh Srivastava for a four and then a big clean six over his head.
Gayle, on the other hand, rotated the strike as the opening duo scored 46 from the first five overs, going more than nine runs per over.
But just when Ganguly looked ominous his innings was cut short by Ravi Bopara, who bowled an excellent first over and his side’s eighth to reduce KKR to 56 for one. Ganguly hit five fours and a six in his knock.
Ganguly’s wicket slowed down the pace of KKR scoring as Manoj Tiwary, elevated to number three, took some time to settle down.
If first five overs yielded 46 runs, only 23 runs came from the next five overs and Kings XI Punjab looked like making a comeback.
But soon Gayle-force hit the Eden with a helpless Bopara at the receiving end, conceding 33 runs from his third over.
Gayle plundered four consecutive sixes in the 13th over bowled by Bopara with two of them falling at L block debris of the Eden as the ball went missing and had to be changed twice.
The West Indian cruised to his fifty from 30 balls as Bopara was smashed to 3-0-43-0 with Knight Riders 122 for one after the productive 13th over.
Tiwary played intelligently giving the strikes to Gayle who continued his big-hitting ways as Punjab struggled on the field and a spilled catch by Piyush Chawla when the West Indian was on 80 did not help Kings XI’s cause.
The ominous-looking Gayle hit two sixes of Chawla in the 15th over before he was dismissed by Juan Theron in the next over.