The memory of the late, great Brian Dunning has been done a great service this week through Northland's history-making defence of the Brian Dunning Cup in Taupō.
Northland, playing in the three-day T20 tournament named after the iconic New Zealand and Northland player, went unbeaten through five games to win the title for a second consecutive time.
The cup, formerly competed for over a 50-over format, was changed to 20 overs about five years ago. In that period, Northland had won it three times, as well as a last-place finish in 2018.
This year's campaign was punctuated by strong batting displays, save for the first game against Northern Districts Representative. Needing three runs to win in the final over, Northland edged the win after a sub-par batting effort.
After a rark-up from player/coach Neal Parlane, the boys put together two clinical performances against Hamilton and Bay of Plenty. Parlane himself led from the front with a swashbuckling 113 from 60 balls - Northland's third T20 century at that level.
Captain Ben Hyde starred against Bay of Plenty, scoring 53 from 33 balls to chase down the opposition's 154/7 with three overs remaining.
Northland needed to beat Counties Manukau on the final day to secure the cup once more. Batting first, Parlane, Hyde and Chris Page all hit their straps with scores of 63, 53 and 61 respectively to take their side to 210/5 from their 20 overs.
While Counties looked dangerous at 70/2 at 8.3 overs, rain forced a game abandonment with Northland ahead on the Duckworth–Lewis–Stern method, resulting in a win and successful cup defence.
To wrap up the competition, a fresh-faced Northland lineup - aimed at giving the wider squad players an opportunity - overcame a strong Waikato Valley team to ensure the unbeaten run.
Winning the Brian Dunning trophy had special relevance to all Northland cricketers and to do so with three debutants was satisfying for Parlane.
"To do it back-to-back with the team we took down, experience-wise, it was awesome to watch," he said.
Parlane's hundred against Hamilton was the highest scored by a Northlander after Henry Cooper and Ollie White both tonned-up in last year's competition.
The dangerous batsman was quick to deflect praise for the knock, but was happy to put in a strong performance against a tough team.
"Anytime I get to represent Northland is a proud moment for me, but it was just awesome for me to be able to contribute."
Parlane highlighted the efforts of Page, who was a consistent performer with the bat across the intensive tournament.
"It was bloody impressive to watch from one of the older campaigners and he's a big part of our team."
Left-arm spinner David Armitt also starred with the ball, often opening the bowling despite dislocating his shoulder just weeks ago.
"For a spinner to take the new ball in every game in a T20 and go as well as he did, he probably didn't get the wickets he would have liked, but he did a job by putting them under pressure," Parlane said.
In the 50-over and two-day formats, Northland hadn't had similar success - often losing by small margins. Parlane hoped the win would lead to better results in the New Year.
"The boys know the standards and they set them pretty high. As long as we learn from those close losses, it's no bad thing."