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Inzamam chooses the big stage

Vishal Dikshit
Fresh on cricket's biggest platform, he turned it on, and how

Pakistan came into the semi-final with three wins in a row after beating New Zealand by seven wickets. Compared to that day's 167, they now had to chase a stiff 263 in Auckland. 

But their World Cup dream was fading. In-form batsmen Rameez Raja and Imran Khan had been dismissed for 44 each and Inzamam-ul-Haq joined Javed Miandad at 140 for 4, needing 123 runs in the final 15 overs.

The stage was big, the occasion bigger, and Inzamam, 22, stepped up with a magnificent fifty.

He didn't need any time to get an eye in, or need to rotate the strike to ease his nerves. He shuffled across and whipped a four to the midwicket boundary to get off the mark. Heaved Chris Harris a couple of overs later for a one-bounce four on the leg side. Harris responded with one outside off and Inzamam danced down to tonk it for a six over long-off. A full toss was dispatched for four more. Harris eventually conceded 72 from ten overs. 

John Wright, in the absence of an injured Martin Crowe, brought on the frugal Dipak Patel. Slog-swept for four straightaway. When Inzamam charged down, Patel dropped it short and Inzamam targeted the backward-square leg region again. Patel's 1 for 28 from eight overs were disfigured to 1 for 50 from ten. 

It became a one-man show for a while as Miandad gave Inzamam the strike and chaperoned him from the other end. Their partnership of 87 in ten overs made the New Zealand attack look meek. 

Inzamam was run out by a direct hit from Harris when Pakistan needed 36, but Moin Khan's six in the penultimate over and Miandad, who stayed till the end, ensured Pakistan's win and a place in their first World Cup final. 

"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."

Vishal Dikshit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo