Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Harmy Needs to Perform or It Will Be Oval and out; Skipper in Harm's Way: Kevin Pietersen Makes a Point to Steve Harmison, Who Was Dropped after His Struggles in New Zealand (Left). England's New Skipper (below Left) Will Need His Bowlers at Their Best If He Is to Get One over on Opposite Number Graeme Smith

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Harmy Needs to Perform or It Will Be Oval and out; Skipper in Harm's Way: Kevin Pietersen Makes a Point to Steve Harmison, Who Was Dropped after His Struggles in New Zealand (Left). England's New Skipper (below Left) Will Need His Bowlers at Their Best If He Is to Get One over on Opposite Number Graeme Smith

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID LLOYD

STEVE HARMISON goes into today's final Test of the season with a vote of confidence from new England captain Kevin Pietersen behind him.

But this week is likely to be the Durham man's last chance to resurrect his international career.

Five months ago, former skipper Michael Vaughan lost patience with him after a woeful performance against New Zealand in Hamilton and that might have been it if South Africa had not come here this summer and won the npower series with a match to spare.

But, having made the squad though not the team at Edgbaston, Harmison has been identified as a potential trump card by Pietersen as he attempts to launch his leadership reign with a victory at The Brit Oval.

Vaughan's successor asked him to take the new ball on a ground where he has enjoyed plenty of success before, saying: "Steve is buzzing, absolutely buzzing.

I'm going to place some responsibility on him, and the big man will deliver."

Harmison needs to live up to that prediction, and help England at least end this series on a high note, to prevent one of Pietersen's first big decisions from rebounding on him and to convince the doubters that he still has plenty to offer at the age of 29.

"For England it is about making decisions not only for this Test but also when they go to India later this year and then the Ashes," suggested South Africa captain Graeme Smith.

"If they're going to pick Steve Harmison now they obviously have a plan for him to play in the next Ashes series at least I hope that's what they would be thinking."

So would Harmison. But a poor performance here at a venue where he has taken 18 wickets at 24 runs apiece in four previous Tests will see a line, in indelible ink, put through his name.

For the moment, though, Pietersen can see nothing but positives. England have managed to score 400 first innings runs in only one of their last 15 Tests, yet the bullish skipper believes playing five batsmen at The Oval will give his top order a challenge to thrive on.

Ian Bell is keen to prove himself at No3, so Pietersen has put him there. And he believes that moving Andrew Flintoff to his old position of No6 even though the all-rounder has been struggling for runs could not be better timed.

Optimism should never be knocked.

But, as Smith could tell him, the best laid plans do not always work out just right. …

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