New Delhi:Mahela Jayawardene cracked an unbeaten 41-ball 52 to guide Kings XI Punjab to a six-wicket victory over Kolkata Knight Riders in a last ball thriller in the Indian Premier League on Sunday.
Jayawardene was the fulcrum around which the Kings XI run chase revolved as he stitched together three crucial partnerships to see his team reach 154 for four in the last ball of the innings.
The Sri Lankan first shared a 25-ball 33-run stand with Simon Katich (34), added 32 runs with skipper Yuvraj Singh (14) and forged a matching-winning 43-run stand with Irfan Pathan (19) to take Kings XI home.
Earlier, Brad Hodge struck an unbeaten 43-ball 70 to propel Kolkata Knight Riders to a competitive 153 for three after skipper Brendon McCullum won the toss and elected to bat at St George park.
Chasing 154 to win, Kings XI were off to a awful start, losing opener Kumar Sangakkara (0) in the fifth ball of the innings when his miscued skier off Ishant Sharma was caught by Morne van Wyk.
However, butter-fingered Kolkata fielders went on to drop as many as four catches, three of opener Sunny Sohal and one of Simon Katich, the culprits being Ashok Dinda, Wriddhiman Shah and Chris Gayle.
The Kings thrived on the largesse of the Kolkata fielders and plundered fours and sixes to race to 44 after the fifth over, when Ajit Agarkar got rid of the dangerous looking Sohal (25) caught by Sourav Ganguly at mid on.
However, Katich kept going strong and added 33 runs off 25 balls with Jayawardene before he was sent packing by compatriot Hodge in his first over, caught by Saha at square leg as Kings XI notched up 81 in 10 overs.
Yuvraj (14) kept Kings XI in the hunt adding 32 runs with Jayawardene but Ishant brought Kolkata back in the game when he had the left-hander caught at cover by Hodge in his second spell.
Soon Pathan joined Jayawardene and the duo helped Kings XI reach the target in the last ball of the innings.
Earlier, Hodge stitched together a 31-run stand with skipper Brendon McCullum, added 51 with Sourav Ganguly (22) before putting on another 51 runs for the unbeaten fourth wicket with Morne van Wyk (18 not out) to anchor the Kolkata innings.
The Knight Riders were off to a subdued start with openers Chris Gayle (17) and McCullum (19) scoring only 15 runs in the first four overs.
Gayle tried to accelerate, smashing two successive boundaries off Yusuf Abdulla in the next over but the South African had the last laugh when he had the left-hander caught at mid-on by Yuvraj Singh.
Hodge then joined McCullum in the middle but runs were not easy to come by as they crawled to 52 for one in 10 overs. After the strategy break, Kolkata lost McCullum when his slog-sweep found Vikramjeet Malik at deep square leg off Piyush Chawla.
With Kings XI bowlers keeping a tight line and length, new man in Ganguly and Hodge picked up ones and twos to keep the scoreboard ticking.
In the 15th over, Hodge brought up the first six of the Kolkata innings when he heaved Abdulla over long off. Soon Ganguly joined the party and sent Chawla out of the park to up the tempo.
Ganguly, however, could not stay long and fell to Chawla when Kumar Sangakkara took a skier.
Hodge, however, continued his blitzkrieg and brought up his second IPL fifty in the 19th overs and followed it up with a four off Abdulla past square leg.
In the last over off Irfan Pathan, Hodge slammed three consecutive fours, while van Wyk hit a six to score 21 off the over as Kolkata went past the 150-mark.
For Punjab, Chawla bagged two for 27, while Abdulla scalped one giving away 33 runs.