Innings of the day
"The captaincy will cramp his style," was the cry that went up when Kevin Pietersen was unveiled as England's new leader. And to a certain extent it did. There was not a switch-hit in sight as KP set about building on the advantage that his bowlers had given him on the first afternoon - instead he produced 137 balls-worth of solid, confident, and unyielding strokeplay, in an innings that was the very epitome of responsible. Perhaps his only moment of hesitancy came when Paul Harris entered the attack with Pietersen a single blow away from his hundred. At Edgbaston, he went for it and memorably failed. This time, he came half-forward and was saved by his thigh as Harris tweaked one past his bat. One over later, however, and a forceful clip off the toes whistled through midwicket to cue the trademark leap and punch, and the latest bout of adulation of Pietersen's Oval love-in.
Dismissal of the day
Fortunately for his match-fee, Pietersen restrained himself when the temptation was there to smack all three of his stumps out of the ground. His tentative edge to slip, only two deliveries after an enduring ovation for his hundred, was the pivotal moment of the day's play. Suddenly, from the comfort of 219 for 3, England slumped to 248 for 7, and the door was ajar for an intriguing final session. All the same, in the space of his first day-and-a-half as England captain, Pietersen had answered all questions about his aptitude for the role. That momentary lapse aside, he had batted with his habitual confidence, and led in the field with enthusiasm and empathy for his team-mates.
Quirky statistic of the day
Only four England captains have made hundreds in their first Test at the helm - Pietersen, Andrew Strauss at Lord's in 2006, Allan Lamb in Bridgetown in 1989-90 and AC MacLaren in Sydney in 1897-98. Three of those four players were born in South Africa, as was the next man on the list, Tony Greig, who made 96 against Australia at Lord's in 1975.
Tail-end hero of the day
If there was any lingering doubt that Steve Harmison is enjoying his cricket again, he dispelled the remaining queries with a slap-happy 49 not out from 59 balls - a performance that not only delighted the crowd but his team-mates as well, as England stretched their first-innings advantage from a dicey 54 to a potentially decisive 122. Harmison has done this before against South Africa's bowlers - his previous highest score of 42 was made in the death-throes of England's defeat in Cape Town three years ago, when he also happened to be the top-scorer in a pretty sorry performance. Then as now, he unfurled his full repertoire of fielder-persecuting swats, swipes and edges, to take his average in Test cricket at The Oval to a faintly ridiculous 119 from five Tests.
Anticlimax of the day
The loudest roar from an exuberant second-day crowd came when Harmison hustled through for a single to complete what, at first glance, looked like his maiden Test half-century. Moments later, however, umpire Steve Davis signalled a leg-bye that triggered a wave of disappointed but good-natured booing - and Pietersen was among the most vocal. Before he could get back on strike, his unwavering partner, James Anderson had gone - nailed plumb in front of middle after losing his bearings playing two reverse-sweeps in three balls. That left Harmison with only Monty Panesar for company, and after his comedy dismissal in the first innings at Edgbaston, the whole crowd knew what was coming. Harmison clipped a single to midwicket, Panesar reacted like Rip van Winkle awaking from his doze, and Harris pinged down the stumps with the bat still two feet short of the crease.
Let-off of the day
On the eve of the Test, Mickey Arthur was asked to explain why Paul Harris was not being considered as South Africa's first-choice spinner for the forthcoming one-day series. Without meaning to leave his words quite so un-minced, Arthur responded that Harris was a "liability" in the field, and so would be making way for Johan Botha. Sure enough, Harris lived up to his coach's lack of faith today, when Pietersen miscued a short ball from Morne Morkel, and sent a monstrous top-edge flying down towards deep backward square. Harris was the man whose name should have been on the catch, but he all too happy to defer to Makhaya Ntini, who had to hurtle round from fine leg, and never got close with a despairing dive. Moments later, Harris was evicted from his position by an unimpressed Graeme Smith.
Drop of the day
Having already copped the abuse of a packed and raucous crowd for that first sprawling dive, Ntini found history repeating itself three overs later, when Andre Nel banged in a bouncer, and Pietersen's ambitious pull through midwicket looped up and over mid-on. Ntini turned, sprinted and dived with every ounce of determination he could muster, but the chance refused to stick in his mitts, as The Oval exploded once again with Schadenfreudian glee.
Bowler of the day
Ntini did at least enjoy himself with the ball, returning his 18th five-wicket haul, and his best figures in a Test innings since South Africa lost to Pakistan in Port Elizabeth back in January 2007. Yesterday, it was Steve Harmison who proved the value of having overs under your belt, and today Ntini backed up that assertion. In consecutive innings since the start of the Lord's Test, he has returned figures of 0 for 130, 1 for 45, 2 for 69, 2 for 70, 2 for 58, and now 5 for 94, which is an improvement in all but one of his outings this summer. With every match, he has got stronger and more confident, attacking the England batsmen from wide on the crease and tempting them into an array of indiscretions. The end seemed to be nigh when he arrived in the country, but he'll have a role when South Africa travel to Australia at the end of the year.
KP captaincy hunch of the day
After his endeavours in the first innings, and the buzz of his batting performance, Harmison might have expected to take the first over when South Africa came out to bat late in the day. But Pietersen's new England is nothing if not a meritocracy, and so that honour went to the statistical star of the first innings, Anderson. It soon proved to be a decision well merited. After kicking past Smith's outside edge with a vicious outswinger, Anderson flipped the shiny side, fizzed down an inducker, and nailed South Africa's captain plumb in front of middle for a duck.