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Thread: Inzamam's greatest innings

  1. #1

    Inzamam's greatest innings

    Inzamam's greatest innings

    Five of the best

    Since making his entrance with a bang, hitting two centuries and two fifties in his first six innings, Inzamam ul Haq has been Pakistan's middle-order backbone, combining some of the most elegant cricket seen in recent times with the steel necessary to bail his side out. Here, in no particular order, are five of Inzi's best one-day innings.

    60 vs New Zealand, World Cup semi-final 1992
    Coming into bat with 123 runs required and the tail to follow (due apologies to Akram and Moin), Inzamam chose the occasion to announce his entry. New Zealand, who had been beaten only once in their previous eight matches in the tournament, were faced with a whirlwind. Inzamam's 60 came off only 37 deliveries and included seven fours and a massive straight six. Inzi finally departed - run out, of course - with 36 still needed but his reputation firmly established.

    122 vs India, Karachi, 2003-04
    The first match of the historic series saw India bludgeoning the Pakistani bowling attack (including Shoaib, Sami and Razzak) for 349. Pakistan's openers were dismissed within the first half hour; then, enter Inzamam who, pacing his innings superbly, formed valuable partnerships with Mohammed Yousuf (then Yousuf Youhanna) and Younis Khan. His running between the wickets was equally impressive as he allowed Yousuf and Younis to attack before cutting loose himself. In all, he smashed twelve fours and two sixes, scored his 122 of only 102 deliveries and was adamant he would take Pakistan home before succumbing to the left-arm spin of Kartik with a further 72 required off eight overs. In the end, Moin was unable to do a Miandad (6 required off the final ball) but the Karachi crowd went home stunned by a superb innings.

    60* vs India, Ahmedabad, 2004-05
    In a match reduced to 48 overs, India put up 315, inspired by a Tendulkar 123. For a change, Pakistan's reply saw contributions from the entire top order (Salman Butt, Afridi, Razzak and Shoaib Malik) but each fell victim to rash stroke-play when patience was required. It was left to Inzamam to keep one end up and the runs flowing and, with three needed off the last over, he shepherded his team to Pakistan's fourth-highest successful run-chase. That last over was tense - he blocked the first five deliveries before driving the last one for a four. His response when asked why he left it till the last delivery: "I wasn't thinking anything on the last ball. I was just praying to God to help me."

    81* vs England, Rawalpindi, 2005-06
    This was a must-win game to ensure Pakistan get something out of the miserable winter. Yet things looked gloomy when Pakistan, batting first, lost the first four wickets for only 58. Inzamam, though, was around, and held one end, nudging around for quick singles and twos, while Afridi and Rana Naved hit a few around towards the end. Inzamam's patient and responsible 81* off 113 deliveries included seven fours and a six (he was left stranded as the last three wickets went down for only two runs) and took Pakistan to a mildly respectable 210 that proved to be enough. Just.

    116 v Sri Lanka, Kimberley, 1997-98
    For a veteran of 378 one-day internationals, Inzamam-ul-Haq has hit precious few centuries. This, his fifth, was one of the best, coming overseas while chasing a huge total and remaining unbeaten. Pakistan were chasing 296 against the Sri Lankans, reigning world champions and still a strong outfit. Inzamam began his innings in the tenth over with Pakistan on 46 for 2. Though he lost partners steadily, he proved impossible to dislodge and moved Pakistan steadily towards their target. He finished unbeaten on 116 off 110 balls, an innings that included only four fours and as many sixes. So perfect was Inzamam's pacing of the chase that Pakistan cantered home with two overs and four wickets to spare.


  2. #2
    So long, Inzy

    There has already been one goodbye this week. Another today makes it two too many, but life moves on. Like Bob Woolmer, this is not the way Inzamam-ul-Haq should have bid adieu to cricket, or at least ODI cricket, stumbling out of the World Cup disastrously.

    In recent months, an essentially amiable, lumbering giant has become a figure not so pleasant. He has been accused of becoming too authoritarian, picking his own teams, stubbornly demanding certain players, not listening to anyone and generally proving how power can change men.

    Age and his back have feasted hungrily on his batting and the last calendar year was an indifferent one. Last August, he was the country's poster-boy, defending a nation's pride at the Oval, and yet last weekend his posters were being stomped on and burned, so quickly feelings have changed.

    But in one instant, as he skied Tawanda Muwaripa to Sean Williams and began the last ride to the pavilion one last time, emotions switched again. Brisker than usual on departure, the walk stalled as every Zimbabwe player rushed to shake his hand.

    And briefly, as life is supposed to flash before your eyes in the instant before you die, as he hurried, teary-eyed, into an emotional guard of honour from his team, all that was good and great about Inzi flashed before us; the yo-yoing weight, the clean-shaven cherubic chubby giving way to the patriarchal beard, the brain ticking over impassively calculating run chases, the bendy flick off his hips over square leg, the hunched, shuffling drives, those violent cuts.

    If you squinted hard enough through coloured eyes, you glimpsed the impudence of the 1992 semi-final 60, the grace of the Karachi hundred against India and the scheming behind the Ahmedabad 60. In a week of tears, here came another sly one: once he was up those dressing room stairs, who would bring that calm, that solidity that you sensed in the middle order, even when he was out of form, every time he walked out?

    His last knock ended exactly 2.52 runs short of his career average. It also came exactly 15 years to the day since his 37-ball 60 gazumped the Kiwis on the way to Pakistan's 1992 triumph. It appeared mostly to be an innings of release: from the immense pressure he has been so good at handling and from the traumas of the last few days and months. He swung his bat greedily and merrily, as he had all those years blago as an ODI whipper-snapper. It didn't last though that wasn't really the point.

    Who can gauge what sort of pressures he has been under just in these last few days? Maybe the announcement of his resignation was mistimed but there are no certainties to how a mind reacts to the worst defeat of an international career followed swiftly by a tragic death. As Kamran Abbasi noted, the decision to resign and retire itself was the right one. It was also a rare one in Pakistan cricket.

    So then, so long Inzy. We may see you again in whites come September but the way Pakistan cricket works there is an equal chance we might not. If we don't, thanks for the dry humour at the pressers; the calm; the slip catches; the running and, of course, the batting. Thanks also for the captaincy reign, which at over three years was one of the longest uninterrupted reigns in this country (which amounts to something) and contained enough memorable moments in it. Thanks even for opening all your post-match presentations, shambolic loss or euphoric win aside, with the same, "First of all, thanks to..." They say change is inevitable but in turbulent environments, sameness can be precious.

    Don't mind the anger at the Irish loss. In time, I suspect we will come to look over the last eight months and remember instead all that went before for over 16 years.

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