All-round Mahmood pushes Kolkata to the brink
Auckland Aces 139 for 3 (Mahmood 51*) beat Kolkata Knight Riders 137 for 6 (McCullum 40, Mahmood 3-16) by seven wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
A high impact all-round performance from Azhar Mahmood, his second of this Champions League Twenty20, gave qualifiers Auckland Aces their third comprehensive victory in South Africa, and severely damaged 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 joined Guptill and the pair used the buffer provided by Vincent's aggression to accumulate steadily, while hitting the odd boundary. Auckland were 51 for 1 when the fielding restrictions were lifted.
Auckland seemed to want to target some bowlers more than others and Balaji was one of them. He returned to bowl the tenth and Mahmood immediately hoisted towards deep square leg, where Pradeep Sangwan took the catch but stepped on the boundary cushions. Guptill fell in that over, slogging to long-on, leaving Auckland 62 to get off 61. Anaru Kitchen then hit a four off his first ball and a six off his third, hacking at the equation, while Mahmood calmly stayed the course.
With three runs to get and plenty of deliveries remaining, Mahmood pulled to the square-leg boundary, the winning shot bringing up a successive half-century in the Champions League.
George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo