On March 21 1992, that’s exactly 20 years back, a young Inzamam-ul-Haq announced his arrival on the cricketing scene with a blistering 37 ball 60 in the Benson and Hedges World Cup semi-final. Arunabha Sengupta looks back on the scintillating innings.
For all intents and purposes, the match at Auckland seemed well and truly lost. The New Zealand formula of small grounds with short square boundaries cleared easily by the brutal slashes of Mark Greatbatch, the solidity of Martin Crowe in the middle, opening the bowling with Dipak Patel and an assortment of dibbly-dobbly medium-pacers seemed to have performed to perfection.
Imran Khan, an ageing icon who had still remained larger than life, had boldly strode in at No 3, but had taken 93 balls over 44. And when Gavin Larsen’s innocuous and irritating line and length dismissed Saleem Malik for one, the Kiwis were already thinking of the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
At the other end, the old wily Javed Miandad was still at the crease, but with 123 runs required from 15 overs and the master middle-order man nowhere near his hard hitting best, Pakistan was looking up the barrel.
And then an unknown, and somewhat ungainly, figure of Inzamam-ul-Haq ambled to the crease. All of a sudden, the sedate pace of the match changed into a blitzkrieg. The ball started flying to all corners of the ground and beyond, struck cleanly by a lazy, unhurried elegance that left John Wright, captaining the side with Crowe nursing a hamstring injury, wondering what had hit him.
Dipak Patel, with figures of 8-1-28-1 against his name, was brought back but was taken for 22 in the last two overs. The string of medium-pacers, especially Chris Harris, suffered mercilessly from an unhurried sword of a bat. All the while, the young man at the crease hardly raised a sweat. There was indeed a hint of ‘killing me softly’ in which the carnage was performed. A new star was born and celebrated with fireworks from his willow, racing to 50 in just 31 deliveries as a shell-shocked fielding team and a silent stunned crowd watched helplessly as the game was whisked away from them.
When Inzamam left, succumbing to the first of his long list of celebrated run out dismissals, he had plundered 60 off 37 balls. With Miandad he had put on 87 in 10 overs, and the remaining 36 runs were cruised through with one over to spare, Moin Khan finishing it off with a 11-ball 20.
Imran rushed into the field to congratulate his players, with a smile on his face worth travelling miles to witness. And the memories of Inzamam’s feats on the ground could not be washed away by the unrestrained tears that streamed down Rod Latham’s cheeks.
(Arunabha Sengupta is trained from Indian Statistical Institute as a Statistician. He works as a Process Consultant, but purifies the soul through writing and cricket, often mixing the two into a cleansing cocktail. The author of three novels, he currently resides in the incredibly beautiful, but sadly cricket-ignorant, country of Switzerland. You can know more about him from his author site, his cricket blogs and by following him on Twitter)