Azhar in the mood
Azhar Mahmood’s second consecutive stunning all-round Champions League T20 display earned Auckland Aces a seven-wicket win over Indian Premier League champions Kolkata Knight Riders.
The 37-year-old former Pakistan international followed his 5-24 and 55 not out in the qualifying victory over Hampshire with 3-16 from four overs and an unbeaten 51 at Newlands in Cape Town.
It was Auckland’s first game of the competition proper and leaves Kolkata with two defeats from two in Group A, thus needing to win their next two matches to have a chance of reaching the semi-finals.
The Knight Riders, who won the toss, twice looked on course for a commanding total but each time Azhar struck and they eventually posted a moderate 137 for six.
Lou Vincent made a blistering start to the chase, which Azhar built upon via a 42-ball knock that completed victory with 14 deliveries unused.
Martin Guptill’s brilliant low catch from Gautam Gambhir’s leading edge gave Michael Bates an early wicket but Manvinder Bisla and Brendon McCullum responded with a 62-run stand.
Bisla raced to 38 from 24 balls before falling to Ronnie Hira and, next over, Azhar broke through twice in as many deliveries to have Jacques Kallis and Manoj Tiwary held for ducks, the latter via a return catch.
McCullum continued to prosper until Azhar had him caught behind for 40 and, once Shakib Al Hasan fell to Kyle Mills, Yusuf Pathan’s unbeaten 22 ensured a decent total.
Vincent’s 11-ball 30 had hurried the Aces to 37 when he holed out to deep square-leg off Sunil Narine. Martin Guptill, who survived a tricky slip chance to Kallis on nine, fell for 24 when he lifted Lakshmipathy Balaji to long-on
Azhar by then was in complete control and, although Narine had Anaru Kitchen lbw for 24 from 15 deliveries, the right-hander reached his fifty and ended the game with a four to square-leg.