A year that began with two heart-stopping test wins has been bookended by another angst-filled triumph for the Black Caps.
But rather than relying on the experience of nervy victories over England and Sri Lanka, tonight’s series-saving defeat of Bangladesh was secured by three players who weren’t in the squad last summer.
After Ajaz Patel took 6-57 to set up a chase of 137 on day four in Dhaka, Glenn Phillips (40no) and Mitchell Santner (35no) put together a composed 70-run stand from 77 balls, sealing a four-wicket win.
Patel’s figures were second only to the unbeatable 10-wicket haul he took against India two years ago, playing just his fifth test since that historic feat.
Phillips, who spent almost four years out of the test team before this tour, earned player of the match while adding three wickets to his 127 runs, 60 more than any other batter on a vexing pitch.
And Santner seized a chance in his first test since June 2021, snaring three wickets in each innings — recording new best bowling figures of 3-51 today — before keeping calm in trying circumstances with the bat.
After Patel and Santner tore through the order to share eight wickets in the first session, dismissing Bangladesh for 144, an ostensibly modest chase was never going to be straightforward.
Several turns had indeed been taken by the time the tourists slumped to 69-6. Phillips and Santner then defied a demanding surface, the hosts’ fearsome spinners, a couple of reviews and a surfeit of vociferous appeals.
But it could have been very different had Bangladesh captain Najmul Hossain Shanto held a sharp chance when Phillips edged to slip on zero, one tense moment in an innings peppered with many.
In the end, four sessions washed out and bad light curtailing play when the rain stayed away, the match saw 36 wickets fall in 177 overs, ample turn and bounce proving too tough for batters to counter.
After the Bangladeshi spinners had dictated much of the series, day four was time for Patel and Santner to claim that decisive contest. The left-arm pair bowled in tandem for almost the entire first session, during their most potent period reducing the hosts from 71-2 to 97-7.
The blitz began with a quicker and lower delivery from Patel that trapped Mominul Haque plumb. Mushfiqur Rahim arrived and looked to attack Santner but the bowler beat his bat before finding his edge.
Santner snared a second in as many overs while deceiving Shahadat Hossain, removing him lbw, before a masterful 25th over from Patel. First, he induced a top edge from Mehidy Hasan Miraz that Santner pouched; then, he had Nurul Hasan given out lbw on consecutive balls, a review saving the batter on the first occasion but not the second.
Five wickets gone with 26 runs added, Bangladesh showed some lower-order resolve, accruing a potentially vital 47 from their final three partnerships, while Patel ended the lone vigil of opener Zakir Hasan (59) for his fourth five-wicket bag.
The first stumble in the chase came when Devon Conway fell to Shoriful Islam in the second over after lunch, completing a poor series. He was not alone.
Henry Nicholls was trapped by Mehidy to join the opener with a fourth failure in as many innings, while Tom Blundell feathered an edge behind off Taijul Islam to finish the tour with 14 runs.
Tom Latham at least managed his highest series score of 26 before nibbling Mehidy to slip, valuable runs but leaving plenty to get for those to follow.
In fairness to that struggling quartet, even Kane Williamson was bamboozled by Taijul. For only the second time in 168 test innings, the former skipper was out stumped, stumbling well beyond his crease.
The tourists were on 51-5 as Phillips arrived and the situation became more dire when a Mehidy delivery glanced off Daryl Mitchell’s glove from an attempted reverse-sweep.
But Phillips and Santner reached tea on 90-6 and, replicating the former’s first-innings approach, finished the chase in a hurry, both batters smacking sixes en route to the Black Caps’ first test victory in Bangladesh since 2008.