Gambhir and Yusuf help the visitor chase down a small target
The focused approach of Kolkata Knight Riders with an eye on the play-offs was in contrast to the disarray in the Pune Warriors camp, diluting a contest between two sides brimming with talent.
Gautam Gambhir's controlled 54 not out off 46 balls set up a seven-wicket win for the visitor in DLF-IPL-IV, with 20 balls to spare. Yusuf Pathan kept pace with 29 off 25 balls as KKR chased down a small target of 118 in 16.4 overs for its eighth win.
Burdened by captaincy and forced to prop up a struggling side, Yuvraj Singh watched helplessly as the home advantage slipped away once again at the D.Y. Patil stadium.
The loss of opener Shreevats Goswami did not affect KKR's run chase. Gambhir and Manoj Tiwary put away the loose balls and survived anxious moments against medium-pacers Alfonso Thomas and Wayne Parnell.
Fifty runs came off six overs as Gambhir rotated the strike and gave Yusuf more opportunities to attack. Three off-side shots along the turf against Rahul Sharma showed the big-hitter in a different light. He was named Man-of-the-Match for his useful contribution with the bat following his two wickets.
A fiery first over from Brett Lee tested Jesse Ryder, after Gambhir had decided to bowl. The Aussie pacer had the opener leaping with a snorter collected by wicketkeeper Goswami stretching to the fullest and then held his head in anguish as an edge flew over the slips.
Manish Pandey feasted on the bounce with two back-to-back boundaries, a stunning pull to mid-wicket and a drive off his pads wide of mid-on which saw the ball racing away. KKR challenged the openers with spin and in no time both were back in the dugout.
Yusuf lured Ryder into holing out to Tiwary at long-on. Iqbal Abdulla deceived Pandey with a ball which straightened on pitching. Shakib Al Hasan came on with his slow left-arm spin and Yusuf changed ends as KKR opted for spin to frustrate the batsmen.
Ferguson fell for the bait, was drawn forward and stranded as Goswami completed the stumping in style. Shakib bowled with a silly point, a rare sight in T20. Warriors then consolidated as Ganguly teamed up with Uthappa. The experienced left-hander displayed his mastery at tackling spin with a straight six off Abdulla.Uthappa stuck to his patented reverse sweeps against the slow bowlers.
Ganguly swept a ball from Shakib on the leg-stump to Yusuf at square-leg while Uthappa gifted his wicket with a hit across the line against Yusuf for Lee to complete a superbly-judged catch on the mid-wicket fence.
Yuvraj was left to mount a rescue operation all alone in the last five overs, let down by his specialist batsmen once again. Pandey (16 runs off 12), Ferguson (16 off 19), Ganguly (18 off 22) and Uthappa (12 off 19) cooled their heels in the dugout, leaving Yuvraj to produce miracles.
Warriors' face-saving recovery began with Sachin Rana supporting captain Yuvraj in a sixth-wicket stand worth 34.
Balaji chipped in with two wickets in the 20th over, completing the work done by the slow bowlers.
Pune Warriors:J. Ryder c Tiwary b Yusuf 1 (6b), M. Pandey lbw b Abdulla 16 (12b, 3x4), C. Ferguson st. Goswami b Shakib 16 (19b, 2x4), S. Ganguly c Yusuf b Shakib 18 (22b, 1x6), R. Uthappa c Lee b Yusuf 12 (19b, 1x4), Yuvraj c Goswami b Balaji 24 (26b, 2x4), S. Rana b Balaji 18 (16b, 2x4), W. Parnell (not out) 1 (1b); Extras (lb-3, nb-1, w-8): 12; Total (for seven wkts in 20 overs): 118.
Fall of wickets:1-9, 2-17, 3-44, 4-71, 5-79, 6-113, 7-118.
Kolkata Knight Riders bowling:Lee 4-0-28-0, Yusuf 4-0-23-2, Abdulla 3-0-12-1, Kallis 2-0-18-0, Shakib 4-0-16-2, Bhatia 2-0-11-0, Balaji 1-0-7-2.
Kolkata Knight Riders:G. Gambhir (not out) 54 (46b, 7x4), S. Goswami c Uthappa b Thomas 6 (3b, 1x4), M. Tiwary b Bhuvneshwar 24 (24b, 1x4, 1x6), Yusuf c Ganguly b Parnell 29 (25b, 3x4, 1x6), R. Bhatia (not out) 1 (3b); Extras (lb-1, w-3, nb-1): 5; Total (for three wkts in 16.4 overs): 119.
Fall of wickets:1-7, 2-53, 3-117.
Pune Warriors bowling:Thomas 3-0-29-1, Parnell 4-0-27-1, Rahul 4-0-29-0, Bhuvneshwar 3-0-19-1, Yuvraj 2-0-12-0, Rana 0.4-0-2-0.