Harmison roars in to give 'brilliant' captain Pietersen perfect Test start

Kevin Pietersen's first action as England captain was to lose the toss, but thereafter almost everything the new man tried bore fruit as England enjoyed a dominant opening day of the fourth and final Test here yesterday.

South Africa, who have already won the series, were hurried out for 194 and by the close England had made a steady start, reaching 49 for the loss of Andrew Strauss.

"I thought that as a team today we were fantastic," said Stephen Harmison, who made a telling return to Test cricket. "I thought Kevin did a brilliant job as captain. I don't think he got challenged that much, because a lot of things he did went right for him."

James Anderson took three wickets, including his 100th in Tests, while Harmison bowled well for his two and Monty Panesar and the recalled Stuart Broad also took two apiece. Harmison admitted to being a little anxious on his return to the side. "Obviously I was a little nervous coming back in," said the Durham fast bowler, "but I got a text message off Kevin [Pietersen] last night saying 'Welcome back' and 'Good luck'. And I just said it feels like Christmas Eve to me. I am so excited. I was just pleased to be back. I got momentum from that first over.

"I was actually better than I thought I was going to be," he added. "In fact it was excitement more than nerves I think."

His tally of Test wickets now stands at 214 after striking twice on the hard Oval pitch yesterday. He could, and should, have had more, in particular with the very first ball of the day which flew high off Graeme Smith's bat and straight to Alastair Cook in the gully, who dropped it.

"That first ball, it just flew at Alastair Cook, but I never get too upset about dropped catches," Harmison said. "It is just one of those things. It would have been nice, but to be honest it was not a great first ball. It was a short and wide long hop which he sort of smacked straight to gully. But it was pleasing to get the first over out of the way."

It was certainly eventful. His fifth ball ricocheted off an inside edge and caught Smith in the most tender of places and had the South African captain doubled up, then flat on his back waiting for the pain to subside.

His final ball flew through to wicketkeeper Tim Ambrose and smacked him in the mouth, drawing blood. "It was an interesting first over," added Harmison wryly.

But he did finally get his man when Smith was tempted into hooking and the top edge was taken by Anderson in the deep. Harmison explained: "I am not knocking county cricket but when you get a top, top player like Graeme Smith out in front of 18,000 people or whatever, the atmosphere, the buzz and everything, that is what I have missed. I missed playing for England. I missed wearing the three lions. I love playing for my country."

Harmison has come a long way since his last Test appearance for England against New Zealand in Hamilton back in March, when he took 1 for 121 in the match. That performance was deemed to be not good enough and he and Matthew Hoggard were dropped.

"I was right to be dropped," he admitted. "I have had a break and I think I am better than I was and hopefully this is the start of a better 12 months ahead than the 12 months I have just had."

The 29-year-old is definitely in the side on merit. He arrived in south London as the leading wicket-taker, with 43, in the First Division of the County Championship and has shown consistency and venom for Durham.

The 6ft 4in bowler took a hat-trick against Sussex at Hove in May and in the next match against Hampshire took six wickets in one innings. He has been instrumental in helping Durham into second in the table, breathing down Nottinghamshire's neck, with a game in hand.

Yesterday he was back and he was happy to let the South African batsmen – and the rest of the cricket world – know this.

Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy as ECB finally wield the axe
Life and Style
food + drink
Voices
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959
voicesWard committed no crime, and the truth is still being covered up, writes Geoffrey Robertson QC
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas