Putting an end to all speculations around his return to bowling, India all-rounder Hardik Pandya bowled in top-flight cricket for the first time since returning from a back surgery more than a year ago. After losing the first ODI, captain Virat Kohli had expressed his concerns regarding the Indian team not having a sixth bowling option. In the second ODI, Australia were cruising once again and looked set for another mammoth score. It was then when Kohli gave the ball to Pandya in the 35th over of the match, in which he gave just 5 runs despite Steve Smith looking in destructive mode. Also Read - Veteran Bollywood Superstar Dharmendra Posts Heartwarming Message For India Pacer Mohammed Siraj

Two days ago, after the first ODI, the 27-year-old Pandya, who has remodelled his action to reduce the stress on his body, said he would bowl in the ‘important’ games and only when the time is right. On Sunday, Pandya provided India a big breakthrough, dismissing centurion Steve Smith in the 42nd over during his four-over spell. Also Read - Virat Kohli, Sachin Tendulkar Lead Cricket Fraternity to Wish Cheteshwar Pujara on 33rd Birthday

“Hardik felt okay to bowl a couple of overs. Initially (we) just thought of trying (him) for a couple of overs but he felt good and bowled a couple of more. And I think he gave away a bit of (our) bowling plan with his off-cutters,” Kohli said at the post-match presentation. Also Read - Google Search Celebrates Indian Cricket Team's 2-1 Series Win Over Australia With Virtual Fireworks

On either side of the dashing all-rounder’s over, leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal and part-timer Mayank Agarwal were smashed for two boundaries each as Australia consolidated their position after a blazing start.

In his second over, Pandya gave away just four runs with the Australians finding it difficult to put away his slower balls. Bowling his third over, he lured Smith into slashing a short and wide delivery, which seemed a part of his plan, straight into Mohammed Shami.

Winning captain Aaron Finch also said that his bowlers picked up some tricks from the way Pandya bowled.

“…we got a bit of a blueprint from Hardik, by taking the pace off the ball,” he said.

Pandya’s delivery stride earlier was too side-on but on Sunday, it looked open-chested, which he had worked on to reduce the burden on his body. On a day when the Indian bowlers found the going tough, Pandya returned impressive figures of 1/24 in four overs.

“It’s refreshing. It takes a load off skipper and the team,” said India vice-captain K L Rahul in the post-match press conference.

With another 10 months left for the ICC T20 World Cup, Pandya had indicated on Friday that bowling is something that he wants to do keeping long-term goals and big events in mind.

Pandya underwent back surgery in October last year in the UK. His lower back had been troubling him since the Test series in England in 2018.

The surgery kept him out of action for almost a year, with the all-rounder last playing a T20 International against South Africa at home in September 2019.

After that, he missed the Tests against the same opposition, the home series against Bangladesh and the West Indies, a T20I series against Sri Lanka and ODIs against Australia at home, and the entire tour of New Zealand earlier this year.