Kolkata: Skipper Gautam Gambhir led from the front with a record-equalling 33rd IPL fifty as Kolkata Knight Riders got back to winning ways by registering a thumping 8-wicket win over Kings XI Punjab, which brought Glenn Maxwell's team's unbeaten run in this edition of the league to an end.
Gambhir scored an unbeaten 72 off 49 deliveries to guide KKR to their eighth consecutive victory over KXIP as the home side overhauled the target of 171 with 21 deliveries to spare.
Gautam Gambhir made the most of the part-timer's non threatening deliveries, hitting four boundaries in the over to make it a great start for the Knight Riders.
Varun Aaron was introduced into the attack in the next over and he was given a warm welcome by Sunil Narine. The Caribbean player gave enough proof of his much improved batting skills as he cleared his front leg and whacked the pacer for two huge sixes over the mid-wicket boundary off the first two deliveries.
Aaron tried to bowl a bouncer on the third delivery but Narine was ready and he played a pull shot to get another boundary. But the off spinner succumbed to his desire to get quick runs as he holed out in the deep off the next delivery while trying to clear the mid-wicket fence again. Narine was out for 37 off 18 deliveries and KKR went on to finish their powerplay overs with 76 runs on the board.
Robin Uthappa joined Gambhir in the middle and the duo kept the scoreboard ticking with the occasional boundary as the initial onslaught by the openers had brought the required run rate under seven runs per over.
Uthappa though played a false shot to get bowled by Axar Patel and departed for 26. Gambhir reached his half-century in the 12th over, his 33rd in the IPL which tied him with David Warner for the most half-centuries in the league.
Gambhir and Manish Pandey made the most of some uninspiring bowling by Punjab thereafter to race to the target in the 17th over itself.
Piyush Chawla was introduced into the attack in the sixth over and he picked up Manan Vohra's wicket off the very first delivery. The Punjab opener was clean bowled for 28 off 19 deliveries.
Marcus Stoinis was the next man in and he found the going tough in the middle. Sunil Narine ended Stoinis' misery by sending him back for 9 as Kings XI Punjab slumped to 67/2 after 8 overs.
Glenn Maxwell was out in the middle and he would have had to walk back after scoring just one boundary after getting a big inside edge to a delivery bowled by Chris Woakes in the ninth over, but Robin Uthappa failed to hold on to the catch.
Maxwell made KKR pay for the reprieve as he hit the first three deliveries of the tenth over bowled by Piyush Chawla for a six and two boundaries. Kings XI Punjab ended the 11th over with 97 runs on the board and looked good for a big score.
New Zealander Colin de Grandhomme, making his debut for KKR in the match, gave his team the important breakthrough by sending back Hashim Amla for 25 off 27 deliveries. In the very next over Umesh Yadav did the star turn by removing the dangerous Maxwell for 25. The Punjab captain getting a faint edge while trying to play a cheeky cut shot.
David Miller and Wriddhiman Saha got together in the middle and the duo punished the Kolkata attack, Miller hitting a four and six in the 14th over, while Saha hit two maximums off Chawla in the 15th over.
Kings XI Punjab looked to cash in on the final overs and Miller made a grand start to the 18th by hitting Umesh Yadav for a boundary and six off the first two deliveries. Umesh they made a stunning comeback by picking up three wickets in the over. He dismissed Miller (28) and Saha (25) off consecutive deliveries and then accounted for the wicket of Axar Patel on the last ball of the over.
The visitors lost their momentum thereafter and ended up with a 170/9 in their allotted 20 overs.