SK Flashback: When Inzamam arrived with a bang at the 1992 World Cup
As 1992 World Cup tournament, characterized by media hype and a marketing blitz, and enveloped by colour and the dazzling floodlights, reached its climax, the excitement was at a fever-pitch. Though one of the host nations, who were also the reigning champions, had faltered, the other home team had proved to be the dark horses so far.
New Zealand, playing some inspired cricket, won their first seven matches on the trot. In their last league encounter they met Pakistan, who had already lost three matches and desperately needed either a win or an outstanding run-rate to pip Australia to the semi-finals.
As it happened, the hitherto invincible New Zealanders were beaten by Pakistan, and only three days later the two teams met again here in the semi-final.
The Kiwis had the quiet confidence of a team that had emerged, by a long way, at the top of the league table, and held the added advantage of playing on home turf. The Pakistanis too were bolstered by the victory in the previous match. Whichever way you looked at it, this encounter promised to be a thrilling one.
And so it proved. Though Mark Greatbatch failed, Martin Crowe was in superb form once again. He shared a 107-run partnership with Ken Rutherford, and raced to 91 off only 83 balls with 7 fours and 3 sixes, before he was tragically run out.
But it seemed that he had yet again put his team on the high road to victory. New Zealand ended up with a formidable 262 for seven in their 50 overs.
Though Rameez Raja, captain Imran Khan and Javed Miandad played with application, Pakistan seemed to be falling behind. At 140 for four, in came the tall 22-year-old Inzamam-ul-Haq to join Miandad.
They were a study in contrast. Miandad was experienced, animated, restless and had a proven record. Inzamam was merely cutting his teeth in the cauldron of international cricket, but as cool a customer as anyone could find.
Most importantly, he was not one to be daunted by the situation.
Inzamam, in fact, changed the complexion of the game very quickly. He got into his stride without any fuss and was soon dominating the bowling.
Nothing made an impression on him. He found the pickets with remarkable regularity, and reached his fifty in a matter of just 31 deliveries. He missed the mark for the then fastest half-century in the World Cup by just one ball.
Just when it seemed that Inzamam would win the match off his own bat, he was run out, a type of dismissal that he eventually took a fancy to. But the brilliance of his strokeplay on this day was such that it put in the shade even the innovative Miandad.
The stand had realised 87 runs, of which Inzamam had scored 60 and taken a mere 37 balls to get them. He hit seven fours and a six, and took his team to the threshold of a fine win and a place in the final.
Miandad and Moin Khan completed the formality with an over to spare, but Pakistan were greatly indebted to the young Inzamam. His batting caught the attention of the entire world, and without it the 1992 World Cup might well have had a different winner.
A dejected Martin Crowe paid his compliments: "The game was ours till Inzamam came out with that glorious hitting. Pakistan had to go for the big shots, and Inzamam took it upon himself to hit out."
Inzamam was, it goes without saying, one of the finds of the tournament.
New Zealand: 262 for 7 wickets (50 overs), Pakistan 264 for 6 wickets (49 overs) (CWC 1992)
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