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Russell blitz drives Kolkata to IPL season best and victory

Kolkata, India: Andre Russell smashed an unbeaten 80 to help Kolkata Knight Riders end their six-match losing streak after notching up a season's best of 232-2 in the Indian Premier League on Sunday.

Mumbai batsman Hardik Pandya hit 91 off 34 balls to try and pull off the chase but the three-time champions finished on 198-7 at Kolkata's Eden Gardens with the home side winning by 34 runs.

The evening belonged to the West Indian all-rounder who hit six fours and eight sixes during his 40-ball blitz after being promoted to number three.

He also returned figures of 2-25 with his pace bowling and held on to two catches including that off Pandya.

Russell, who turns 31 Monday, attributed his big-hitting abilities to "hand and eye co-ordination, balance and good bat speed".

"I generate a lot of power from my shoulders and then the core and a good balance," Russell said after receiving the man of the match award.

"As an all-rounder you have to make sure your body is fit and strong. Definitely one of my best T20 days. We knew we needed to get 200+…But well done to the bowlers."

His efforts lifted Kolkata from seventh to fifth place in the eight-team table as the Twenty20 tournament moves towards the business end.

Two places are still up for grabs in the play-offs with Delhi Capitals and defending champions Chennai Super Kings having already booked their berths in the final four.

Earlier Shubman Gill, who hit 76, and Chris Lynn, who made 54, put on 96 for the opening wicket and Russell took over from there to tear into the Mumbai bowling attack.

Russell registered his fourth fifty of the season to jump to second in the IPL batting charts with 486 runs, behind Sunrisers Hyderabad batsman David Warner (611).

"He's a special player for us. He's special in this tournament," skipper Dinesh Karthik said of the Jamaican-born Russell.

"The way he's responded to different situations, he's shown maturity and I was just telling him that." 

Mumbai were in trouble at 58-4 when Pandya walked into the middle and hit the ball to all parts of the ground, bringing up the IPL's fastest fifty of the season in 17 balls.

The Indian all-rounder smashed six fours and nine sixes before falling to left-arm England paceman Harry Gurney as Mumbai's chase fell short.

Gurney, Russell and spinner Sunil Narine took two wickets each.

The world's most popular T20 tournament will end on May 12 with the final in Hyderabad.

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