London: England's bowlers made it a good first day in charge for new captain Kevin Pietersen when South Africa were bowled out for 194 on the first day of the fourth and final Test at the Oval Thursday.
England were 49 for one at the close. Recalled fast bowler Steve Harmison took two wickets with successive deliveries to spark a collapse in which South Africa lost their last nine wickets for 91 runs.
"England as a team were brilliant," said Harmison. "Kevin did a fantastic job as captain. I don't think he got challenged that much. A lot of things that he did went right for him."
He said a text message from Pietersen the night before the game, saying it was "like Christmas Eve," had helped get him in the right frame of mind for his return to international cricket.
Harmison said he had missed the excitement of playing in Tests after being dropped during a series in New Zealand earlier in the year.
He said playing regular county cricket had helped him regain his rhythm but said he had also benefited from "spending a little time out of the spotlight" and becoming refreshed mentally.
The tourists, already holding a winning 2-0 lead in the series, appeared to be heading towards a strong position after winning the toss when they reached 103 for the loss of one wicket.
But Harmison then had South African captain Graeme Smith caught at deep backward square leg for 46 and fired in a 93mph (149kmh) yorker to bowl Hashim Amla for 36 with his next delivery.
James Anderson followed up by taking the next three wickets. He finished with three for 42 to be England's most successful bowler. Anderson trapped Jacques Kallis leg before with a full in-swinger, had Ashwell Prince caught at cover and Mark Boucher caught behind with a full away-swinger.
It could have been worse for South Africa because England put down three catches before the fall of the second wicket, all of them by Alastair Cook, including a miss off the first ball of the match when Smith cut Harmison to gully and Cook could not hold a head-high chance.
Smith survived a second, much more difficult chance when he edged Andrew Flintoff and a diving Cook at third slip got his fingertips to the ball.
Cook held a catch at third slip to dismiss Neil McKenzie for 17 after an opening stand of 56 with Smith but put down a third chance when Amla slashed Flintoff to third slip when he had five.
Amla's let-off heralded a flurry of boundaries before Harmison struck. From then on just about everything went right for Pietersen and England, notably when left-arm spinner Monty Panesar was brought on to bowl the last over before tea.
Panesar trapped AB de Villiers leg before wicket after De Villiers had moved confidently to 39 off 53 balls.
It was a remarkable turnaround for England and Pietersen, who had endured a frustrating first two and a half hours of play during which the catches were spilled and the luck seemed to be going with the batsmen as they played and missed or edged the ball dangerously close to fielders or the stumps.
Smith won the toss and batted on a pitch with pace and bounce. There was possibly more help for the bowlers than he anticipated, however, as Anderson in particular was able to get considerable swing.
But the South Africans, who batted with great discipline in earning a draw in the first Test at Lord's and winning the next two, were guilty of playing several loose strokes.
Amla, who looked in sparkling form, making his 36 off 35 balls before his dismissal, said the South Africans had put their celebrations after the series win behind them and had gone into the match determined to do well.
"It is unfortunate that we got out to good deliveries or loose shots. We've been in this situation before at Lord's and we got out of it. Hopefully in the second innings we can dig deep," Amla said.
For Pietersen, though, the day provided vindication for his decision to go into the match with five specialist bowlers as each member of the attack contributed to South Africa's downfall.
South Africa struck back when Andrew Strauss edged Makhaya Ntini to Smith at first slip after making six. But Cook and Ian Bell saw England through to the close of play.