Kolkata Knight Riders' chances of making the semifinals of the Champions League Twenty20 tournament suffered a major blow as they slumped to their second successive defeat after losing to Auckland Aces by seven wickets in a Group A match, here on Monday night.
Auckland rode high on veteran Azhar Mahmood's superb all-round show as they knocked off a modest target of 138 runs with 14 balls to spare.
Mahmood, who was instrumental in restricting KKR to 137 for six with brilliant figures of 3 for 16, also produced an unbeaten knock of 51 runs, which turned out to be crucial in the final outcome of the match at the New Wanderers stadium.
KKR captain Gautam Gambhir's decision to induct Shakib Al Hasan at the expense of seasoned Brett Lee backfired badly as the reigning IPL champions missed out a genuine paceman on a pitch that was assisting the faster bowlers.
Apart from Mahmood, Lou Vincent (30), Martin Guptill (25) and Anaru Kitchen (24) also came up with useful contributions.
Brendon McCullum top-scored for the Knight Riders with a 35-ball 40, which was laced with two sixes and three fours. But the Knight Riders could not build partnerships and lost wickets in regular intervals.
Mahmood made inroads into the KKR's middle-order with his twin strike in the 10th over as he dismissed Jacques Kallis (0) and Manoj Tiwary (0) in successive deliveries to dent the Knight Riders innings, who after the early loss of Gautam Gambhir had tried to recover well.
Mahmood, in his second spell, removed dangerman McCullum to add to the misery of KKR, who came into this match after being crushed by Delhi Daredevils by 52 runs in their opening tournament fixture on Saturday.
Mahmood was ably supported by Kyle Mills, Michael Bates and Ronnie Hira, who picked up a wicket apiece.