Harmison's return adds to Flintoff's optimism over new era

Kevin Pietersen has spent the initial 18 days of his reign as England captain on the front foot. Every decision Pietersen has made, whether it be picking a five-man bowling attack for The Oval Test against South Africa or persuading Steve Harmison out of one-day retirement, has been a positive one.

Harmison was last night called into the squad for today's first one-day international against South Africa in place of Ryan Sidebottom, who has failed to recover from a niggling hip injury. "After recently being asked by the England management to reassess my retirement from international one-day cricket I've decided to join England's squad after careful consideration," said Harmison. "It's something I have been thinking about for a period of time and due to recent injuries in the England camp the opportunity has arisen for me to play a role in this series."

For all Harmison's return, Pietersen's positive intent will be severely tested over the next fortnight, during which England are scheduled to play five one-day matches against South Africa, arguably the best limited-over team in the world. To state that England's recent one-day cricket has been mediocre would be extremely generous – they have won six of their last 19 games. South Africa have won 16 out of 19.

The form guide does not suggest England will enjoy the NatWest Series but Pietersen's side can enter the tournament with hope. On paper the England team that played against Scotland on Monday looks good. The prospect of Stuart Broad batting at 10 underlines how deep the batting order is, while Ravi Bopara and Luke Wright give Pietersen plenty of options on the bowling front.

South Africa's state of mind may work in England's favour too. Graeme Smith, the Proteas captain, accepted yesterday that his players have found it hard to get motivated since achieving the tour goal of winning a Test series in England.

Headingley, the venue for this evening's opening day-night encounter, is a ground that historically helps bowlers but England's leather throwers are unlikely to arrive with positive memories. On their last two visits to Leeds England's bowlers have surrendered 648 runs at the alarming rate of 7.4 runs an over. A repeat performance would give Pietersen's man management skills an early test.

Andrew Flintoff did not play in either of the maulings handed out by Sri Lanka and India and his return is the source of great optimism. Monday's game in Edinburgh highlighted just how difficult it is to bat against him. Scotland's batsmen had little idea of how to deal with 88mph thunderbolts that whistle past the chest or toes. South Africa's classier batsmen will have similar problems.

"Our preparation has been hindered by the weather but we are ready," said Flintoff enthusiastically. "I don't believe the team will struggle for motivation: this team is a different team to the Test side that won at The Oval. There are a lot of lads who want to impress and cement spots in the side.

"There is a freshness about the side, especially since Kevin [Pietersen] has taken over as captain. In the past week there has been a real nice feel around the camp. Kevin is very enthusiastic about doing it and I can't see why he won't be a successful captain for a while.

"South Africa are the form side in the world at the moment: they have beaten everyone they have played. It will be tough. But we have to test ourselves against these sides. We have beaten the best sides in the world but we have to start beating them over a period of time, not just in one-off games."

With Sidebottom and Chris Tremlett injured, and Paul Collingwood's serving the final game of his four-match ban, England will be picking from 14 players. England are expected to make one change to the team that played in Edinburgh, with Graeme Swann returning ahead of Samit Patel.

Tim Bresnen took 2 for 34 against Scotland and the 23-year-old will be looking to show his home crowd that his last display for England in England, when he bowled two overs for 29 against Sri Lanka in 2006, was an off-day.

South Africa will be weakened by the absence of Albie Morkel, who is struggling to overcome a ligament injury in his right shoulder. There is a genuine fear that he will not play in the series. Vernon Philander, an all-rounder who played for Middlesex earlier this summer, will replace him.

Smith is suffering with tennis elbow in his right arm too, although he has promised to soldier on. If South Africa fail to raise themselves from their torpor England may well provide their supporters with an unexpected reason to celebrate.

Probable teams for Headingley


K P Pietersen (c), I R Bell, M J Prior (wkt), O A Shah, A Flintoff, R S Bopara, L J Wright, GP Swann, T T Bresnan, S C J Broad, J M Anderson

South Africa

G C Smith (c), H H Gibbs, J H Kallis, A B de Villiers, J P Duminy, M V Boucher (wkt), V D Philander, J Botha, M Morkel, D W Steyn, M Ntini.

Starting today with England's one-day international against South Africa, access live scorecards from all of England’s international matches at independent.co.uk/livecricket

Arts and Entertainment
Joe Cocker performing on the Stravinski hall stage during the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland in 2002
musicHe 'turned my song into an anthem', says former Beatle
Clarke Carlisle
footballStoke City vs Chelsea match report
Arts and Entertainment
David Hasselhof in Peter Pan
theatreThe US stars who've taken to UK panto, from Hasselhoff to Hall
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
Coca-Cola has become one of the largest companies in the world to push staff towards switching off their voicemails, in a move intended to streamline operations and boost productivity
peopleCoca-Cola staff urged to switch it off to boost productivity
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'