When Mick Newell admitted that he’d “possibly under-used” Ben Phillips last season it was clear the former Somerset all-rounder was likely to figure in the Nottinghamshire director of cricket’s plans for the new campaign.
A successful pre-season tour of Barbados confirmed that a fully-fit Phillips was desperate to make an impact this time around.
“I’m enjoying it,” he says. “It’s nice to be fit at the start of the season, unlike last year. I’m pleased to be getting a game and am just trying my best to take the opportunity.”
Phillips’s shirt number, meanwhile, has aroused comment since he arrived at Trent Bridge a year ago. While some would think that he is tempting fate, the 37-year-old laughs at his reasons for wanting to wear number 13.
“I arrived at Somerset in 2007 and was given shirt number nine there but suffered a chest muscle injury, which eventually required surgery, and I ended up missing the whole season.
“So when I came back I chose to have number 13 instead. It’s all supposed to be a bit ironic – a bit tongue-in-cheek.”
Phillips moved to Nottinghamshire after four years at Taunton, hoping to shake off the perception that he was becoming solely a limited-overs player.
An ankle injury prevented him from travelling out to Abu Dhabi for the champion county game at the start of last season and he struggled to break into the four-day side after then, playing just once against Yorkshire.
Although he failed to pick up a wicket in that fixture, he proved his worth with the bat by blasting an unbeaten 71.
Wickets have come steadily this season, though, a couple against Loughborough MCCU in the first-class warm-up fixture and five in each of the opening two County Championship matches, at a cost of just 15 runs apiece.
His best figures of 4 for 33 came on the second day of the recent win over Durham. Appropriately enough, for the un-superstitious Phillips, the date was Friday 13th.
In three successive overs, within the space of thirteen (yes, thirteen) deliveries, he removed Ben Stokes, Ian Blackwell and Phil Mustard to completely turn the momentum towards his side. “One day I’ll get wickets and on another it will be somebody else’s turn – we’re just enjoying each other’s success at the moment,” he added.
“Obviously I’m very pleased with how it’s going so far. We’ve started really well as a unit and bowling at the other end to Andre Adams has been really helpful to me. As a four or five-man attack we’ve got pretty simple plans really – putting balls in good areas time and time again – and it is paying dividends.”
With two straight victories, Notts are already the pace-setters at the top of the Division One table, a lead that will next be challenged by the visit of Phillips’s previous county Somerset on April 19-22.
“It’s always nice to play against your old team and I’m very much looking forward to doing well against them. We’ve won two from two now so we go into the game full of confidence,” said Phillips.