His reaction to his first wicket said as much, too. Najmul Hossain Shanto, Bangladesh’s captain in this series and their in-form Test batter, had already taken Ajaz Patel, New Zealand’s spin mainstay, apart. One shot too many, however, brought Shanto back to earth. He mistimed a Phillips full-toss to mid-on, where Kane Williamson pouched a difficult skier.
Phillips’ facial expression was priceless. He hung his head before a big smile emerged as he celebrated his first Test wicket. He later said, in jest, that he would trade his second wicket (Mominul Haque, caught behind) as his first Test wicket.
“I have dreamed of getting my first Test wicket for a long time, but that was not how I thought I would get it,” Phillips said with a round of laughter following in the press conference room. “You see legspinners often bowl absolute peaches and then a nice juicy full-toss. The batter’s eyes light up, and it goes straight up. I have always wanted a little piece of that, but I didn’t want it for my first Test wicket. Maybe we can replace it with the second wicket. Look, I have got out to full-tosses. Every batter gets out to full-tosses. I just got a little bit lucky.”
“They came hard at us early on. They put Ajaz [Patel] under a lot of pressure. I think it did present the opportunities to take wickets throughout but as we have seen in the subcontinent pitches, you have to be aggressive to put bowlers off their line and length. The Bangladesh boys did that well today but it presented a few wicket-taking opportunities.
“Obviously with someone new that the guys haven’t faced before, there’s always that element of unknown. Obviously being the fifth bowler, as a batter, I’d look to target myself as well. I think maybe the combination of those two things presented the opportunity to take a few wickets, which was really nice.
“I tried to stick to the process. Pass the baton on to the other boys. Try to build dots, build pressure. Jazzy bowled unbelievably well. Our seamers bowled incredibly well. Ish [Sodhi] bowled that absolute speccy of a delivery. The pressure was built by everyone all round. I just received the reward,” he said.
Mahmudul, who top scored for Bangladesh with 86 runs, said that they played some bad shots against Phillips.
“He is an occasional bowler so if we didn’t charge him, the main bowlers would have kept us in check,” he said. “We wanted to attack the occasional bowler. Unfortunately we got out to bad shots against him.
“This is how Shanto bhai bats. He wanted to play his natural game. Not all batters get the chance to get set. It is always frustrating to get out in the thirties or forties. People get out. It was a full toss. It doesn’t happen all the time. I was a bit surprised too as Shanto bhai was playing really well.”
Phillips was bowling in Tests for the first time, playing in his second Test. He said that his bowling has given him the competitive advantage in a tough field for aspiring batters in the New Zealand Test side.
“I have been trying to lose the wicketkeeper-batter tag for a long time now. Hopefully this (four-wicket haul) puts a little stamp on things. I worked really hard over it for quite a number of years now with this goal in mind.
“I also felt that I needed to offer something with the ball in order to play Test cricket. Our batting line-up is incredibly strong. Key to getting this opportunity was to play the allrounder’s role.”
Phillips said that his captain Tim Southee mixed the bowlers’ spells effectively, particularly keeping in mind the type of bowlers he had and their respective confidence levels.
“I think it is a mixture of understanding that there’s five days of cricket to go with only two seamers. Using them in short bursts and understanding that Ajaz will probably bowl a lot of overs to hold an end for a while. Ish is our impact bowler.
“I think to be able to have a ball turning in, mixing myself with Jazzy, is probably an ideal scenario. Having lefties in the top-order allowed Ajaz to have a bit of break. But also I think credit to Timmy for understanding what we as spinners need from a confidence perspective.
“For example, before he took that wicket, Ish didn’t start off the way he would have liked. He felt a bit more relaxed a few overs into it. Starts ripping it really hard, and then obviously the reward comes. The way he holds himself and talks to us as bowlers, is really encouraging. We back his decision-making all the way.”
Bangladesh, meanwhile, will rue throwing away their wickets after most of the batters got starts. Mahmudul felt that the hosts are still on top given the type of pitch in Sylhet, but admitted that their 310 for 9 at stumps is well short of their planned score.
“We wanted to score 350 to 380 runs. It didn’t happen. We will try to stop them with their quality spinners. If they bowl well, we can bowl them out for a low total. The pitch isn’t as easy as it looks. The ball turns often. It is not every day that a batter will score runs,” he said.
Asked why Shanto and Nurul Hasan were in ultra-attacking mode from the start, Mahmudul said that they stuck to their game plans while he grafted along for 166 balls.
“It is easy if you trust your defense. Everyone has a different game plan. Shanto bhaimyself and (Nurul Hasan) Sohan bhai played our natural games. You can last long in any wicket if you trust your defensive technique,” he said.
Unfortunately for Bangladesh, it also meant that they couldn’t control their aggressive intent, succumbing to Philips’ highly underrated offspin. Their target to “hit him out of the attack” didn’t go to plan. As Mahmudul said, they are now pinning their hopes on their spinners to do the job.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84