Howler by Cook Denies Harmy a Dream Return; That Hurts: Steve Harmison (Far Left) Is Distraught after the Dropped Catch by Alastair Cook, Who Feels the Pain of His Error (below Left). South Africa Skipper Graeme Smith (Left) and Keeper Tim Ambrose Are Also in Trouble after Being Hit by Deliveries

The Evening Standard (London, England), August 7, 2008 | Go to article overview

Howler by Cook Denies Harmy a Dream Return; That Hurts: Steve Harmison (Far Left) Is Distraught after the Dropped Catch by Alastair Cook, Who Feels the Pain of His Error (below Left). South Africa Skipper Graeme Smith (Left) and Keeper Tim Ambrose Are Also in Trouble after Being Hit by Deliveries


Byline: DAVID LLOYD

A DROPPED catch prevented Kevin Pietersen and Steve Harmison from getting off to a dream start at The Oval today. New captain Pietersen and recalled fast bowler Harmison were all set to celebrate a sensational first ball success when South Africa skipper Graeme Smith began the summer's final npower Test by edging a cut to gully.

But instead of holding the two-handed, head-high chance, Alastair Cook could only parry it to England's dismay and the disappointment of most members of a capacity crowd who were willing both Pietersen and Harmison to hit the ground running.

Playing his first Test since being dropped in New Zealand five months ago, Harmison quickly shrugged off Cook's error to cause Smith more problems during a ferocious first over.

But, despite regularly bowling at nearly 90mph throughout a demanding new ball spell, the 29-year-old could not break through. Nor could Jimmy Anderson as South Africa, having won the toss and already won this series, reached 56 under increasingly dark clouds before Andrew Flintoff came to his captain's aid.

Neil McKenzie (17) drove at one wide enough to leave alone and snicked high to third slip where a grateful Cook pouched the chance. The visitors moved on to 64 before rain forced an early lunch..

Harmison went into the match with a vote of confidence from Pietersen behind him. But he knew it was likely to be his last chance to resurrect an international career that has veered crazily from Ashes glory (2005) to Ashes humiliation (2006) and all points in between.

Five months ago, Vaughan lost patience with Harmison after a woeful performance against New Zealand at Hamilton and that might have been it if South Africa had not come here this summer and won the npower series with a game to spare. But, having made the squad though not the team at Edgbaston, Harmison has been identified as a potential trump card by Pietersen.

"Steve is buzzing, absolutely buzzing," said the captain. "I'm going to place some good responsibility on him, and the big man will deliver for us." Buzzing? The whole ground was crackling with excitement after Harmison's dramatic first over. …

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Howler by Cook Denies Harmy a Dream Return; That Hurts: Steve Harmison (Far Left) Is Distraught after the Dropped Catch by Alastair Cook, Who Feels the Pain of His Error (below Left). South Africa Skipper Graeme Smith (Left) and Keeper Tim Ambrose Are Also in Trouble after Being Hit by Deliveries
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