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India celebrate after winning the NatWest final (Credits: Twitter)

Exactly 18 years ago on this day, India defeated England by two wickets in the famous NatWest Series final at the Lord’s. The historic win came fourteen months after the famous Test win against Australia at the Eden Gardens. Just like the win at the Eden Gardens changed Indian Test cricket, the win in the NatWest final turned out to be a defining moment for the ODI team.

This was the same game where Sourav Ganguly had taken off his shirt, and waved it above his head. No one had dared break with tradition at the iconic Lord’s but then again Ganguly was not an ordinary captain. The Prince of Calcutta made sure to celebrate the triumph in his own style at the Mecca of Cricket. It was perhaps also a fitting answer to Andrew Flintoff who had taken off his shirt after an English victory at the Wankhede a few months before the NatWest Series final.

England’s batting masterclass:

India’s record in the final of ODI tournaments was not great. Before the final at the Lord’s, the Men in Blue had lost finals of nine ODI tournaments. And when England piled up 325 for 5, their highest ODI score at that time, it looked game over for the tourists.

Opener Marcus Trescothik looked in sublime form, and smashed 109 from 100 balls. Skipper Nasser Hussain also led from the front too as he slammed his maiden ODI ton and top-scored for his side with 115 from 128 balls. Flintoff provided the finishing touches by slamming 40 off just 32 balls.

India’s reply:

Captain Ganguly and young opener Virender Sehwag came out all guns blazing with the bat. The two added 106 runs for the first wicket to set the tone for the historic chase. But what happened after that was a complete disaster. India lost next four wickets for just 36 runs to find themselves reeling at 146 for 5. To make the matters worse, batting mainstay Sachin Tendulkar had departed too.

But the game was far from being over. Two youngsters – Yuvraj Singh and Mohammad Kaif – took charge of the chase. The two ran brilliantly between the wickets and mixed caution with aggression to bring the chase back on track. Yuvraj and Kaif went on to turn the game on its head by adding 121 runs from just 106 balls.

The partnership ended when Yuvraj departed for 69. Kaif was then joined by Harbhajan Singh as India raced to 314 in the 48th over. Harbhajan and Anil Kumble then departed in quick succession as tension started increasing. With 12 needed from as many balls and a well-set Kaif in the middle, India had every reason to be optimistic.

However, the lack of support from the other end was a big worry. Kaif was joined by Zaheer Khan in the middle for the final phase of the thrilling game. In the 49th over, Kaif blasted Darren Gough all over the park to collect 10 runs.

Flintoff started the final over on a good note by bowling two dot balls. But on the third, Zaheer managed to scamper through for a single and when an England player made a desperate throw at the stumps, the batsmen ran overthrows to complete a historic triumph.

India finally won an ODI final after losing nine in a row and Ganguly made sure to make England realise that. Standing on the Lord’s balcony, the India legend took his shirt off and started waving it to spark while celebration.

Here is the highlight of that famous game:

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