First ball after tea, as Shakib Al Hasan went down on his haunches to appeal for an lbw against Hamilton Masakadza, the crowd rose. It was further proof of the magnetism he holds over the crowd: no matter what people are up to, the moment he is in the middle, all heads turn towards him. It's a connection only Shakib can perhaps claim to have with the Bangladeshi fans. So, in the second session, when Shakib took a break after bowling 12 consecutive overs, it was the time in the stands to sort out lunch.
Khulna had turned out in large numbers in the expectation of a win. It wasn't quite house-full attendance but being a Friday, many families were also present, along with the usual groups of boys. They were busy chatting with each other knowing that only the wickets mattered. Mothers were helping their kids lap up the boxed biryanis, some men were jostling through the crowd to avoid toppling the two or three glasses of soft drinks they were holding. Most had their faces painted or had come with headbands, but through the second session, the stands resembled the waiting room of a railway station.
Jubair Hossain had struck twice before tea to remove Regis Chakabva and Craig Ervine but it merely served as a public announcement signalling the train's approach. There was reserved jubilation, no major movement. It wasn't quite a wicket for Shakib, it wasn't quite the win.
Hence the instant buzz when Shakib came on to bowl after tea. By that time, the water bottles had been emptied, throats had been cleared, hunger taken care of, batteries recharged. And when Shakib appealed, it was as if he was doing a pre-flight check: banging of bottles, check; roars, check; everyone on their feet, check; ready for take-off. That appeal against Masakadza was turned down, but the volume in the stands went up a few notches. Bangladesh, five wickets away from a win, were making the final push and the team was not alone.
It has been a tough year for Bangladesh. Shakib might say it has been tougher on him with fewer ups and more downs. It is not hard to see the mutual dependency, with Shakib one of the most important assets in the team. Bangladesh lost ODIs, they lost Twenty20s, they lost Test matches, they lost Shakib to a suspension. There did not seem to be way out of the mire, until somehow they managed to cross the line in Mirpur.
Khulna has been good to the home side and to Shakib, who could do little wrong here. A century after three years, five wickets in the first innings, two already in the second - surely he was going to get the remaining three. Masakadza was the biggest challenge but the wickets would come at the other end, it was known. If there was a way around Masakadza, Shakib had to find it. Soon enough, he found one to surprise Masakadza and pumped his fists knowing he had won it for Bangladesh. It was time to board the party train.
The pitch joined in, too, it seemed, playing an amusing trick by getting a ball to sneak below Malcolm Waller's bat in the next over from Taijul Islam. Then the Zimbabweans started making a quiet exit, Chigumbura walking after nicking one off Shakib. Taijul did not pick up a wicket in his next over and Shakib then regaled his fans by getting Natsai M'Shangwe out. It was Shakib's tenth wicket and he was driving the train.
As the crowd bounced around, the view to the pitch and the giant screen was blocked. Some officials at the boundary were visible. One of them raised his arms in celebration only to pull them down immediately. Maybe it was a missed run-out, maybe it was a dropped chance.
Then, soon enough, the roar again. All that could be heard was the din when the last wicket went down. All that could be felt were the goosebumps. Shakib, man on a comeback, a century and ten wickets in the match, had turned it around for Bangladesh. Two matches, two wins, their first home series win since 2005. It could all be felt as they screamed "Bangladesh, Bangladesh" in the stands. The pitch was still hidden from view by boisterous crowds and a stuffed toy, a tiger wearing a Bangladesh flag as a cape, was being thrown up repeatedly. Remember the cat from Mirpur? It had transformed to a Super-Tiger in Khulna.