On ODI comeback, Hardik Pandya underlines bowling value
Hardik Pandya bowls in his first ODI for India since September. © AFP

Hardik Pandya, in his first international match since September, slotted back into India’s XI for the third ODI against New Zealand on Monday, hours after landing in the country, and gave an exhibition of his bowling and fielding skills.

Pandya, having been cleared to return to cricket by the BCCI last week, stepped into the team and claimed 2/45 in ten overs while taking an acrobatic catch to dismiss Kane Williamson. (READ MORE: India need 244 for series win after Shami, Pandya shine)

The 25-year-old, who had been handed a suspension for his comments on a popular chat show not long ago, replaced the allrounder Vijay Shankar who went wicketless in the first two ODIs without getting a chance to bat. (LIVE UPDATES: INDIA vs NEW ZEALAND, 3rd ODI)

In the 17th over of New Zealand’s innings at Bay Oval, Pandya dived to his left from midwicket and plucked a very good catch to cut off Williamson on 28 when the Blackcaps captain flicked Yuzvendra Chahal in the air. Pandya bowled very tidily in his first spell of 5-0-9-0, came back to concede 15 runs in two overs during the middle phase of the innings, and then in his final spell to claim Henry Nicholls and Mitchell Santner to finish with 2/45 from ten overs.

In the 4oth over, Pandya used a clever slower bounce to get Nicholls caught down the leg side. In the 43r over, Santner chased a short and wide ball and edged to Dinesh Karthik.

For a player identified by Virat Kohli as a vital cog in India’s plans for the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup, Pandya made a good start to his comeback ODI. With Pandya absent after he was sent home for misconduct, India played three pace bowlers in two of the three ODIs in Australia this month and in the other chose to play the seam-bowling allrounder Shankar.