Cricket World Rewind: #OnThisDay - Inzamam pummels Pakistan to 1992 World Cup final
March 21, 1992 - The story of the day when an unknown entity Inzamam-ul-Haq catapulted himself in the hearts of millions of Pakistanis through his explosive knock in the semi-final against New Zealand. Since then, he is fondly celebrated as Inzi.
After a troubled start to their 1992 World Cup campaign, Pakistan came into the semi-final with three wins in a row after beating New Zealand by seven wickets. As opposed to the 167 that they had easily chased in their league encounter against the Kiwis, they were now up against a stiff 263 in Auckland.
In-form batsmen Ramiz Raja and Imran Khan had been dismissed for 44 each and Inzamam-ul-Haq joined Javed Miandad at 140 for 4, needing an improbable 123 runs in the final 15 overs. Skipper Imran Khan had looked totally out of nick that day, dragging himself to a laborious 43 after consuming 93 deliveries.
"The night before, Inzy had high fever and had been throwing up all night," Wasim Akram recalls. "So he went to Imran Khan and said, 'I've got fever and I don't think I can play.' Imran said: 'Inzy, don't think about anything else, just think how you are going to play this game.' And Inzy played a superb knock and that particular innings gave him the confidence to eventually become a great player."
All of 22, Inzamam didn't need any time to get going. He began with a four to the midwicket boundary to get off the mark before taking a special liking to Chris Harris, who ended up conceding 72 runs from 10 overs. Such was Inzi's wrath that day that even the frugal Dipak Patel, from 1 for 28 from eight overs, finished his spell at 1 for 50 from 10.
The youngster, despite batting with one of the tallest batting figures of the country, Javed Miandad, easily outshone him. To his credit, Miandad too kept his head - as you'd expect him to - and was constantly in Inzmam's ear, goading him to take the bowlers on.
Inzamam was run out by a direct hit from Harris when Pakistan needed 36, but with a scintillating 60 off 37 balls, he had done enough to pummel the team to the final.
"I will always associate my earliest memories of the World Cup with the lovely month of Ramzan and getting up well before dawn. I was barely 11, maybe 12 - an age when I had already begun to understand the game and had started playing cricket in the streets," Shahid Afridi shared his memories of the 1992 World Cup. "Whatever I was able to grasp about the game at that time, I didn't think that Pakistan was going to go all the way.
"They lost a lot of games in the early stages of the World Cup and my excitement around the tournament started to go down. I lost my optimism and sense of thrill. But suddenly, after we beat New Zealand, things started to brighten up."
Skipper Imran Khan had almost gone against the selectors to get Inzi picked for the World Cup. It was on this day that the youngster showed his full range. He would shuffle to off and heave a full-length delivery over midwicket, and when the bowlers dragged it further outside off, he would dish out a fierce cut.
The batsman who was aged just 22 at the time of this knock went on to represent Pakistan in 120 Tests and 378 ODIs, apart from finishing as one of the finest leaders that the Men in Green have ever seen.
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