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The dark humour amid Bangladesh's batting drama

Mahmudullah was bowled for 28 Associated Press

There was a roar of laughter inside the press-box and outside, in the stands, as the big screen showed a cat trudging, somewhat nervously, behind one of the sight screens. It was cheeky work by the cameraman given the state of the home team - the tigers - in the chase of what had seemed to be a trivial target. The humour of the visual reference punctured the nervous energy that had been accumulating throughout the afternoon and provided a release. If anyone from the Bangladesh team found it funny, he might have had to laugh away from the cameras; it would have been imprudent otherwise.

Mushfiqur Rahim was in the middle at the time, staging a lone battle against two opponents: one, a team of underdogs fighting tooth and nail; the other, and the more dangerous one, his own batsmen who were, figuratively, intent on bungee-jumping without bungee cords. Not for the first time, the tendency of Bangladesh's batsmen to attempt good-looking shots had left the team's chase on life support. Only a few hours ago, the Bangladesh captain was heard hollering at his men to reduce Zimbabwe to 60 for 5. Now Bangladesh were 62 for 6, after losing a couple of wickets in an over, and Mushfiqur was the last recognised batsman.

The brief air of humour faded quickly and the grim buzz was back as the crowd realised the batting bust was happening again. They have experienced it before this year - against Hong Kong in the ICC World T20, and then in June, in an ODI against India. Perhaps the crowd were to blame, for creating so much noise in a flood-lit stadium that even though their team wore whites and played with a red ball, they were still pushed into a limited-overs trance. Perhaps it was Shoaib Ali Bukhari's fault, for painting himself as a tiger yet again, for bringing another painted friend along and for waving the flag so vigorously it seemed time was running out. Or maybe it was Taijul Islam's blunder, for taking wickets in such a hurry that the batsmen did not get enough rest.

The batsmen were the least likely to make mistakes, so the crowd rallied behind them. They were up on the feet, making noise - roars and drums - as Shahadat Hossain, or Shahrukh as he is affectionately called, leaned into a drive to hit a boundary. They got behind him as Sikandar Raza, stationed at point, made advances towards their Shahrukh after every ball. And they cleared their throats properly when he hooked Tinashe Panyangara for a six over deep square leg. Bangladesh were still a few runs away from victory but, with that shot, Shahadat felt the need to respond to Raza - he pointed his bat towards the stands, showing Raza the quality of the connection. That drew even more cheers. Shahrukh was in town. The next ball, he edged to slip. Shahadat was back, the score 82 for 7.

After a few nervous overs, Bangladesh finally crossed the line with a narrow three-wicket win, taking 1-0 lead in a series in which they are eyeing a clean sweep. They had to thank Taijul for his 15 critical runs and for not following in the footsteps of the senior batsmen. Bangladesh had the win they were after, Taijul was the man of the match for his special spell, but the result left a sour taste. The stands did not go on cheering; the supporters quickly found the nearest exit and slipped away. They had been through too many emotions in the day.

The journalists went through a lot of emotions too after the match when Mushfiqur talked at the press conference. "We were saying that we needed 20 wickets to win a Test, but I think what was more important for us was to put the runs on the board," Mushfiqur said. "Had we won this game easily then there would have been a number of areas regarding which we would have forgotten about. So at least now we know that we have a number of areas to work on."

Earlier in the day, the innings break had signalled lunch in the eating hall two floors below the press box. By the time the chicken curry and pulao were laid on the table, Tamim had left with the score at 0 for 1. That did not distract anyone from their conversations or the meal; it was almost as if the early wicket was a given. A seven or eight-wicket win being discussed earlier in the press-box must have made an allowance for this. The heads started turning when Shamsur left at the same score. The custard was lapped up quickly, replay watched, it was time to head back. By the time everyone got back to their seats - some 50 seconds in all - another replay was up. Mominul Haque was gone, the score 0 for 3.

Journalists checked the records, shouted from one end to the other to confirm whether India still held the record of 0 for 4. A feeling of discomfort was probably hidden in the sighs of relief when Shakib pushed one away from his body to pick up a single. Mahmudullah was relatively calmer; he had talked about the importance of patience the previous day. Patience, however, was not Shakib's choice as he flayed at a wide delivery and got a thick outside edge. John Nyumbu dropped the catch and ignited the stands.

"Shakib, Shakib," the crowd chanted. In the first innings, those chants had coaxed Mahmudullah to hit consecutive sixes in the last over before lunch on the second day. What was he going to do today? A few balls later, he was beaten by the low bounce as he pushed away from the body. He repeated the same shot next ball, got a thick outside edge and again, Nyumbu dropped a simple chance at gully. The crowd roared, the press-box grimaced, and it probably helped Mahmudullah reset.

There was no stopping Shakib. In the next over, he went for a hook and missed. He tried it again the next ball and missed. He tried it for the third time in a row and top-edged it over the wicketkeeper. "Shakib, Shakib," they went, probably for the bravado he showed against the bouncer barrage. Mominul, a compact and upcoming batsman, was in the dressing room, along with other young batsmen, perhaps taking notes on how to chase down totals in Test cricket. Shakib had 10 runs to his name, six off those from edges, when he decided to charge Panyangara and hit him over mid-on. In the next over, he departed for 15 off 21 balls, to the customary silence.

Mahmudullah was solid and stylish before he drove away from his body and chopped the ball on to his stumps. Shuvagata Hom, one of Bangladesh's best batsmen in the pre-matchday nets according to their coach, followed Mahmudullah back in the same over. It was time for the cat to make an appearance.