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.

Arts & Entertainment
Schwarzenegger winning Mr. Universe 1969
arts + entsCan you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
Sport
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich
football Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
News
Portrait of Queen Elizabeth-II by David Bailey which has been released to mark her 88th birthday
peoplePortrait released to mark monarch's 88th birthday
Life & Style
The writer, Gerda Saunders, with her mother, who also suffered with dementia before her death
healthGerda Saunders on the most formidable effect of her dementia
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Sport
Manchester United manager David Moyes looks on during his side's defeat to Everton
footballBaines and Mirallas score against United as Everton keep alive hopes of a top-four finish
News
With its new studios in Paris, Dailymotion has reinforced its position as Europe’s most-visited website
mediaEuropean rival Dailymotion certainly thinks so
Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents The ad shows Prince Charles attired for his coronation in a crown and fur mantle with his mouth covered by a criss-cross of white duct tape
Arts & Entertainment
‘Self-Portrait Worshipping Christ’ (c943-57) by St Dunstan
books How British artists perfected the art of the self-portrait
Sport
Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring in Liverpool's 3-2 win over Norwich
Football Vine shows Suarez writhing in pain before launching counter attack
News
People White House officials refuse to make comment on 275,000 signatures that want Justin Bieber's US visa revoked
News
Sir Cliff Richard is to release his hundredth album at age 72
PEOPLE
Sport
Lukas Podolski celebrates one of his two goals in Arsenal's win over Hull
football
Arts & Entertainment
Quentin Tarantino, director
film
News
The speeding train nearly hit this US politican during a lecture on rail safety
news As the saying goes, you have to practice what you preach
Sport
Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain (front) drives ahead of Red Bull Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia during the Chinese F1 Grand Prix at the Shanghai International circuit
sport
Arts & Entertainment
Billie Jean King, who won the women’s Wimbledon title in 1967, when the first colour pictures were broadcast
tv
News
Snow has no plans to step back or reduce his workload
mediaIt's 25 years since Jon Snow first presented Channel 4 News, and his drive shows no sign of diminishing
Life & Style
food + drinkWhat’s not to like?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit