Australia v Pakistan, 2nd Test, Sydney, 3rd day January 5, 2010

Thanks for the laughs on a tense day

Heat rises on North
Marcus North can be relieved Phillip Hughes didn't succeed on his return. If Hughes, who had come in for the injured Simon Katich, had pushed on further than 37 in the second innings North might have spent the next week wondering if he would be the one squeezed out for the final Test in Hobart. In the second innings North thrust his bat in defence at Danish Kaneria but picked the wrong line and the inside edge shot to Faisal Iqbal at short leg. The dismissal left him with scores of 1, 8, 10 and 2 for his past four bats. He probably has one more chance.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man?
Before the first morning, much of the talk for this Test had been about Kaneria's role at the SCG. He didn't need to do much in the first innings but the first session of the third day was a good time for him to make an impact. He did, but not the kind Pakistan would've wanted; he was lucky to last five balls of the day's first over, then fluffed a catch pulled straight to him at deep fine leg. And with the ball he initially looked less threatening than Imran Farhat had at the MCG.

Thanks for the laughs
Most of the day was pretty tense: Australia were trying to fight back after being 204 behind and Pakistan, though confident, would have been much happier against any other side. Thank heavens for Kaneria then to provide some humour in the field. He'd already let one catch through before he dropped a bizarre return offering from Ricky Ponting; the captain cut hard, the ball struck silly mid-off on the thigh, and looped up towards Kaneria who somehow managed not to get a hand on it going backwards. Throw in a few comic efforts in the field and Kaneria, who also gave away four over-throws, was a one-man stand-up. The Australians weren't laughing later in the day when Kaneria turned serious and ran through the middle order.

Akmal watch
Number-crunchers will confirm it, but if Kaneria had a wicketkeeper who could hold onto some edges, he would've gone past 300 Test wickets long ago. Instead he has Kamran Akmal. The senior Akmal dropped regulation edges from Michael Hussey thrice off Kaneria's bowling, on 27, 45 and 52. In the morning Akmal had inexplicably forgotten to remove the bails in a run-out attempt on Shane Watson. Younger brother Umar has also dropped two sitters in the series so far; perhaps Adnan, the best hands of the three brothers according to the late Bob Woolmer, should be recruited as a substitute?

Ponting's summer drought
If this was the last Test it would count as Ricky Ponting's worst batting campaign in a home summer since he was dropped during the 1998-99 Ashes. Ponting's second-innings 11 took his tally in the five Tests against West Indies and Pakistan to 216 at an average of 27. Twelve summers ago Ponting had 47 in three Tests and was cut for Darren Lehmann. This season has been a difficult one for Ponting, who has been carrying a tender elbow since Perth, and he has one more match to adjust the record.

Stan stands in bronze immortality
Stan McCabe's unbeaten 187 at the SCG in the Bodyline series was one of three epics in his 39-Test career and hooking was a feature of those brutal and courageous innings. Now the shot has been set in stone at the ground following the unveiling of his sculpture outside the visitors' dressing room. McCabe, who died in 1968, joins Richie Benaud and Fred Spofforth as bronzed Aussie cricketers who are remembered that way here. Playing at the same time as Bradman, McCabe shone brightest at the SCG in 1932, Johannesburg in 1935 and Trent Bridge in 1938.

Pink haze
It's Jane McGrath Day so the SCG underwent a pink makeover. The Ladies' Stand was renamed in honour of Glenn McGrath's late wife, some Australian flags had their blue backgrounds replaced and Michael Slater, the former batsman turned commentator, was suited to look like an elf dunked in fairy floss. The McGrath Foundation is raising money for breast cancer nurses during the "Pink Test" and late on the third day had collected A$116,000.

And the winners are …
It's award season in Australia and Mitchell Johnson and Shane Watson have picked up some of the fringe prizes as the best performed in 2009. Johnson received the McGilvray Medal as the ABC Test Cricketer of the Year, the second time in a row he has taken the accolade, for his 63 wickets and 500 runs. Watson was the Australian Cricket Media Association's best following his streak of 716 runs at 65.09 in seven Tests after replacing Phillip Hughes.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo