Harmison roars in to give 'brilliant' captain Pietersen perfect Test start
Friday 08 August 2008
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.
Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao live: Mayweather puts on defensive masterclass to win by unanimous decision
What time does Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao begin on Sky Sports Box Office?
Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao: What time does the fight start and what channel is it on?
Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao: Only 132 pubs in the United Kingdom will show the fight - so where can you watch it?
Floyd Mayweather beats Manny Pacquiao by a unanimous points decision - but Pacquiao thinks he should have won, saying 'he did nothing'
- 1 Which country would be hardest to invade?
- 2 The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
- 4 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
- 5 Royal baby girl born: Duchess of Cambridge's second child will be a princess thanks to Queen
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: SNP and its activists 'openly racist' towards the English, Farage says
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils