He proved his critics wrong

IMRAN KHAN still believes that Inzamam-ul-Haq is a better player than Sachin Tendulkar. The reason — Imran thinks Inzamam plays more match-winning knocks and scores centuries when the team badly needs a big knock from the Sultan of Multan.

The selectors ignored him for the last three one-day international series since his 19 runs in six World Cup innings in February-March. Most people thought that it would be hard for Inzamam to make a comeback in Test matches. And they were right to some extent when Inzamam was out for a five-ball duck in his comeback innings against Bangladesh in the first Test at Karachi.

But the burly batsman was confident that the day was not far when he would prove all his critics wrong. His match-winning knock of 138 not out against Bangladesh should rate among the top of the 88 Test matches that he has played.

After scoring a half-century on the third evening of the Test match and just five tail-enders to assist him, Inzamam was still confident that with a little support from them, he could get the required 113 runs for victory on his own, on the fourth morning. He was not that much wrong. After all he made 85 out of 114 runs that Pakistan scored on the fourth day, which gave it only the 10th one-wicket victory in the history of Test cricket.

With the wickets falling all around him, Inzamam kept his cool and played his best innings in Test cricket. "It was certainly my best innings in Test cricket. I have no doubt about that," he said.

He regretted the run out of Younis Khan during the run-chase when he called his partner for a suicidal run off a misfield and Mohammad Ashraful's throw left Younis well short of his crease.

"I decided to make amends of my mistakes and that dismissal made me more cautious in my approach," he said.

The unbeaten 57-run partnership with Mushtaq Ahmed, which gave Pakistan a one-wicket victory against Australia in 1994 at Karachi, was always in Inzamam's mind when he batted with the tail-enders in his hometown. "Yes, it was there in my mind," he said after his five hours, 17 minutes match-winning innings during which he faced 232 balls and hit 20 fours and a six. "I recollected that I had won a match against Australia nine years ago, so why can't I do it against Bangladesh," he said with a broad smile on his face.

Cricket is a game of those who cash in on opportunities. "My plan was that I should not spare any loose deliveries and score the maximum from them," he said.

Inzamam said he was under tremendous pressure going into this Test match. Pressure of playing in his hometown, pressure of not scoring runs in the series and the pressure of playing with the tail-enders to get Pakistan to victory.

"Today I not only had to save one end but also had to score runs. Thank God I did it. Yesterday, I thought it was a 50-50 match, but I was confident that if I played positively with the tail-enders, I could do it. The best part is that we didn't panic and all of them supported me." — Rizwan Ehsan Ali