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Match Analysis

No Wagner, no cry - Glenn Phillips is on the job for New Zealand

On a day when New Zealand had to put up a fight, Glenn Phillips took it upon himself to show the way, returning a memorable five-for

Alex Malcolm
Alex Malcolm
02-Mar-2024
Glenn Phillips offered a typically polite and diplomatic response to the media at the close of day two when he was asked why he had not bowled a single ball in the first innings, particularly during Australia's 116-run tenth-wicket stand.
"If you look at the way the wind was going today, small side to leg side with the wind, one really, really strong right-hand better and a left-hander that wasn't facing many balls, I don't think that's the match-up," Phillips said. "I think the way Tim [Southee] used the bowlers was really good. I'm always keen to have a bowl, I'm always keen to bowl at whatever-hand batter."
Less than 24 hours later, after Nathan Lyon had taken four wickets, Southee's match-ups were thrown out the window and Phillips created carnage, bagging a maiden Test five-wicket haul to shine a blazing light on Australia's fragile batting and New Zealand's selection and planning.
Black Caps coach Gary Stead admitted on Tuesday that New Zealand had misread the conditions in their previous Test in Hamilton by not playing a spinner. They not only doubled down on that error on a surface offering spin and bounce at the Basin, they did not bowl their sole offspinner in the first innings despite him having taken 3 for 37 against Australia in a 771-run ODI World Cup game in Dharamsala last year, where he took the wickets of Travis Head and Steven Smith and tied Mitchell Marsh in knots.
On day three, Phillips knocked over Head again, as well as Marsh, Usman Khawaja, Cameron Green and Alex Carey, to take 5 for 45 from 16 overs as Australia crumbled to be all out for 164, leaving New Zealand needing just 369 to win after starting their second bowling innings 204 runs behind.
Phillips had also stated last night that New Zealand needed to show some fight on day three and that the game was far from over, with something between 350-400 very achievable at the Basin Reserve in the fourth innings.
He walked the walk after talking the talk and did so with characteristic energy and verve. In a week when New Zealand had farewelled their talisman in times of malaise, Neil Wagner, it was Phillips who took the mantle and ran with it.
That he became the first New Zealand spinner to take a five-wicket haul at home since 2008, and just the 12th from any nation to take five or more at the Basin Reserve, possibly excuses the Black Caps' thinking pre-game.
Any concerns that Wagner's heart would be irreplaceable on the Black Caps' side are unfounded. Glenn Phillips has filled the void
For Australia, though, with that context in mind, some questions need to be asked. This wasn't Shamar Joseph with a pink ball on a tricky Gabba pitch. It wasn't even Wagner with hostile, tireless short-pitched bowling. It was a batter and part-time wicketkeeper who bowls offspin. To be fair to Phillips, his offerings are excellent as he has proven at first-class level, in limited overs cricket, and already at Test level. He bowls with high revs and can extract spin and bounce from any surface. He found plenty in this pitch. He also works incredibly hard at his craft. But he also doesn't have the accuracy and unwavering consistency of Lyon. He bowled plenty of bad balls among plenty of good ones.
Australia did not fall to many good ones. They simply didn't wait for the bad ones.
Australia were 68 for 3, leading by 273, when Phillips entered the attack. He had bowled tidily in his first three overs but had conceded ten runs, seven of which went to Khawaja. Five balls into Phillips' fourth over, Khawaja lost patience. He skipped out and attempted a wild slog to a delivery that was nicely flighted well wide of off and was stumped.
That lapse was quickly forgotten as Head and Green steadily accumulated to take the lead to 319 with six wickets still in hand. Phillips had bowled some good deliveries but had offered four drag downs. Green smashed one onto the hill while Head thrashed three past point.
What unfolded was an all too familiar sight for Australia in recent times. Just as they had done at Headingley and The Oval against Moeen Ali, they gifted their wickets away to spin when they were in control of the game.
Inexplicably, Head tried to loft against the spin over mid-on from well wide of off stump and sliced a simple catch to long-off.
Next ball, with a short leg and leg slip in place, Phillips angled a ball down leg to see if Marsh wanted to bring either man into play. Marsh obliged, poking a catch to Will Young at short leg that was akin to catching practice at training.
Phillips did not threaten the stumps with his hat-trick ball, but it was not required to dismiss Carey just four overs later.
The plan was so obvious it might as well have been emailed to Australia's team analyst pre-match. Phillips had one slip and two catching covers and was repeatedly tossing the ball up outside off encouraging Carey to drive. He had already tried twice and threatened to bring both cover catchers into play. He tried a third time and picked out Southee at head height.
While Australia's batters played a hand in Phillips' first four, he produced a peach to bag his fifth and remove the best batter in the match. He extracted turn and bounce from outside off as Green tried to defend on the front foot with firm hands. It caught the inside edge, bounced off the pad and was brilliantly pouched by Young one-handed diving to his left at short leg. It was the type of dismissal offspinners dream of.
Phillips wheeled away with arms outstretched and leaped into Matt Henry's embrace at mid-off.
He deserved a sixth wicket when Pat Cummins not once but twice offered skied catches straight to Scott Kuggeleijn at long-on and substitute Henry Nicholls at deep midwicket but both chances were grassed.
Regardless, Phillips walked off the ground holding the ball aloft to warm applause. He received equal appreciation yesterday for his brilliant rearguard 71 with the bat. He has given New Zealand a chance when there seemingly was none.
Any concerns that Wagner's heart would be irreplaceable on the Black Caps' side are unfounded. Glenn Phillips has filled the void.

Alex Malcolm is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo