The Best of Inzamam November 28, 2005

Grace under fire

Inzamam-ul-Haq's best innings have been compiled when the pressure has been at its greatest, and Inzamam at his most unflappable

Inzamam-ul-Haq has often talked of the need to handle pressure as being the key to succeeding in international cricket. His best innings, as detailed below, have been compiled when the pressure has been at its greatest, and Inzamam at his most unflappable.

Inzamam-ul Haq's best innings: leading Pakistan to victory in the World Cup semi-final © Getty Images

60 v New Zealand, Auckland, 1992 World Cup semi-final. Pakistan won by four wickets.
The innings that catapulted Inzamam onto the international map helped Pakistan win the World Cup, and encapsulated what he means to Pakistan. He came in at 140 for 4, with 123 runs still needed at more than eight an over. Guided by the wily Javed Miandad in a partnership of 87 and abetted by some clean hitting, he departed 37 balls later with Pakistan on the verge of a famous victory. He rates it as his best innings "for the pressure I was playing under".

138* v Bangladesh, Multan, 2003. Pakistan won by one wicket
In his home town for a comeback series after a disastrous World Cup and an embarrassing defeat against newcomers - pressure, what pressure? Inzamam farmed the strike superbly, mixing defiance with aggression as Pakistan chased 261 on a seaming wicket. He then ran out Umar Gul and teetered precariously between villain and hero as the debutant rabbit Yasir Ali came out to bat with four still needed. Inzi got the strike, flicked behind square for his 20th boundary, and ensured he became a hero. "I just kept thinking there was no way we could lose this Test," he said.

Inzamam-ul-Haq lashes out during his matchwinning innings against Bangladesh © Getty Images

329 v New Zealand, Lahore, 2002. Pakistan won by an innings and 324 runs
A masterly knock in searing heat, and one in which the last 108 runs came mostly in boundaries as Inzamam battled severe cramps. He batted for nearly 10 hours, hit 38 boundaries, and dispelled doubts over his fitness. It was Pakistan's most comprehensive Test victory. "I was trying to break the world record by hitting boundaries - I only had Danish [Kaneria] left." Inzamam hit three of his nine sixes off Brooke Walker in one over before perishing chasing a fourth.

122 v India, Karachi, 2004. India won by five runs
Inzamam out-batted the world's best batting line-up and did it with a nonchalance that bordered on the psychotic given the target (350). He flicked, cut, swept, drove and ran hard to a majestic century, taking Pakistan to within five runs of victory. The shot of the day? A lazy flick off a good-length ball from a bewildered Ashish Nehra through square leg for four. An innings not likely to be forgotten by those who saw it.

Chasing 350: Inzamam-ul-Haq made a valiant 122 against India © Getty Images

201* for United Bank Limited v Pakistan National Shipping Corporation, Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, 1989. UBL won by six wickets
The innings that propelled him into the national limelight. After a young speedster by the name of Waqar Younis had ripped through PNSC in the first innings with 6 for 33, Inzamam came in at one down on a seaming wicket and proceeded to dominate a line-up that included the Test bowler Azeem Hafeez and Amin Lakhani, a veteran left-arm spinner, for 249 minutes. Haroon Rasheed believes it to be the best innings he has seen. "It was a difficult track - and he was only 19 at the time, but he destroyed them."

184 v India, Bangalore, March 2005. Pakistan won by 168 runs
One down in the series and a second series loss to India in one year beckoned. The entrance was much as usual; Pakistan in trouble at 7 for 2, Inzamam looking distinctly unworried. He carried on much the same way from the moment he hit his first boundary, a hunched push with a little hop for afters through cover. Thereafter, he varied only in tempo not temperament; till 50 you barely noticed him, but after it, right after lunch, he detonated. By the time he approached his 21st century, he had settled down again, methodical in his singles and easy in his boundaries. He departed to his first ball on the second morning, but by then with Younis Khan, had put Pakistan well on their way to a series-leveling win. It was the 16th time out of 21 that his century had led to a win.

Scourging England: Inzamam-ul-Haq equals and goes past Javed Miandad © Getty Images

86 v India, Mohali, March 2005 Match drawn
Inzamam's angriest innings, and thus one of his best. In a huff he walked out after, improbably on another flat pitch, Pakistan's top order contributed three horrendous dismissals to the first ten runs of the second innings. Soon after he began, he poached three boundaries in an over from Balaji. The last one, no more than a crouched defensive push to the right of mid-off, warned of his mood and form. Anil Kumble, a traditional tormentor, was bludgeoned back over his head in signature Inzamam style. When he departed 105 balls later, for the second time in a year, he had sparkled brightest among the most celebrated modern day batting line-up, and more importantly, given Kamran Akmal and Abdul Razzaq a base from which to save the match the next day.

109 & 100* v England, Faisalabad, November 2005 Match drawn
Only in comparison to what he had been doing for the past year, do these innings pale slightly. They seemed inevitable, given how composed and untroubled he had appeared through the series. He steadied the ship in the first, only to be dismissed in contention, but for the second, on the final morning, he saved his best. He resumed on 41, with only the tail, albeit stodgy, for company. Refusing to farm the strike conventionally, he allowed his partners to take away time, while he took the target further away from England. He scored 59 off the 85 runs Pakistan made that morning, six of them from a thunderous slog off Harmison over the back over his head. The two innings prompted Michael Vaughan to call him the only difference between the two sides throughout the match. Oh, and he also equalled and then broke Javed Miandad's long-standing record as the highest century-maker for Pakistan.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo