Inzamam-ul-Haq pulls during his blitz

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Pakistan 264 for 6 (Inzamam 60, Miandad 57*, Watson 2-39) beat New Zealand 262 for 7 (Crowe 91, Rutherford 50, Akram 2-40, Mushtaq 2-40) by four wickets

They lost three of their first five matches, and should probably have lost a fourth too, when England bowled them out for 74. Rain saved them there, and gave them an underserved point, a point that was eventually critical to their progress into the last four of this World Cup.

But don"t take anything away from Pakistan for what they"ve done since that early run. They beat Sri Lanka, Australia and New Zealand on the bounce to reach the semi-finals. And now they"re in their first World Cup final, having pulled off a sensational chase to dump out New Zealand, the co-hosts and league-table toppers, on their own turf.

They"ve pulled off the fourth-biggest successful chase in any World Cup match. Of the three above it, two came in 60-over matches, and the third against an Associate side, Zimbabwe. And none of the top three chases came in a knockout match.

It was challenge enough for Pakistan to chase 263. When Imran Khan and Saleem Malik fell in the space of five balls, their task had grown immeasurably more difficult: 123 needed off 95 balls, with six wickets in hand.

It was here that Inzamam-ul-Haq, all of 22, with only 15 ODIs behind him, joined Javed Miandad at the crease. Inzamam wasn"t unknown or unproven at this level; he"d scored back-to-back ODI hundreds against Sri Lanka earlier this year. But this had been a quiet World Cup for him up to this point, and this was a semi-final.

For a player of quality, though, a semi-final is a cricket match like any other. And Inzamam is most definitely a player of quality. How else do you score a half-century in 31 balls while exuding the air of someone taking a leisurely stroll around the neighbourhood, pausing occasionally to chomp on an apple?

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