The beers flowed and the barbecue sizzled at Victoria Park on Sunday evening as Air Chathams Wanganui celebrated a great end to the Furlong Cup season as well as their man of the hour in 100-game representative Mark Fraser.
Wanganui picked up an easy first innings points win over Wairarapa after batting the better part of the day with 385-8 declared, on the back of a high century partnership between Fraser (64) and top scorer Ben Smith (122), who went on to his sixth century for the province.
Skipper Dominic Lock then sent a tired Wairarapa back into bat while 107 runs behind with 35 scheduled overs left in the day to see if they could force a collapse for an outright victory.
The wearing pitch was still not offering much to bowlers however, with paceman Akash Gill sending down just one over, where two boundaries were struck, before Wanganui went straight back to their successful spinners and slow bowler from the first innings in Smith, Dylan Martin, and Chris Stewart respectively.
Having already grabbed a 5-for, Martin brought in fielders around the bat and picked up three more scalps for figures of 3-34 plus three maidens in his twelve overs for an outstanding debut match with an eight wicket haul.
Following up his 30 from the first innings, Wairarapa opener Anthony Sprowson carried his bat through 24 overs to finish unbeaten on 34, before the umpires called the match around 6pm at 80-3 with no further result likely.
Wanganui were delighted to comprehensively finish off what has ultimately been a competitive season – one that was looking very shaky from internal strife back in November-December under now departed player coach Charlie Hartley.
There were no outright defeats thanks to committed rearguard batting actions against the likes of Hawke's Bay and Horowhenua Kapiti, good bowling against Manawatu which the batsmen couldn't take advantage of, and then back-to-back first innings points wins over Taranaki and Wairarapa.
Had Wanganui claimed first innings points against Manawatu, missed by only 24 runs, and had enough time to bowl out Wairarapa again, they would have finished as high as second on the table – unheard of for the minor association.
But really, the celebration on Sunday was to honour Fraser, who had debuted for the side in the late 1990's when he was still a 15-year-old at Whanganui Collegiate because the team needed a spinner.
After that one-off match, it was in the following season that Fraser would cement his place in the team as he evolved into a reliable top order batsman, good enough to get a belated Central Districts A callup in 2014, and he would proceed to play in all of the-then seven game Furlong Cup campaigns, which later became five games per season.
Now in his mid-30's and a father, Fraser has seen a lot of people come and go from the dressing room.
"There's been a few good cricketers. David Cooper, Eric Austin, Gary Myers the South African pro," he said.
From the modern era, Fraser named Smith, current selector Tom Lance and team mate Dominic Rayner as the best.
Fraser's mana within the playing group speaks for itself.
During his post-match interview with the Whanganui Chronicle, team mates John McIlraith and Nick Harding both came over and insisted Fraser be acknowledged as being on "the Mount Rushmore of Wanganui Cricket", alongside Smith and legends Eric Head and Harry Cave.
That fact that Smith is now on the honours board for a record sixth time as a batsman means Fraser is likely to play on in Wanganui colours for at least another season.
"I've got to catch Ben now," he said, having made the board five times himself, plus a few hard luck stories when dismissed in the nervous 90's.
On Sunday it looked like the pair would reach the milestone together as Fraser had overhauled Smith's total to reach his 50 first, scoring at nearly a run a ball, before being given out in contentious circumstances from a caught behind that Wanganui believe did not carry.
"It bounced between the keeper," Fraser said.
Smith laughed that when he reached 97, he looked towards the batting tent and saw Fraser jokingly raising his index finger to indicate a dismissal, so he wouldn't go past him for the record.
"It's always good batting with Mark," Smith said.
"Today obviously was a little bit of attrition because the pace wasn't in the wicket.
"Knowing you could score singles but also score off their boundaries [from bad balls] was key to how we batted as a partnership.
"It would have been nice for Mark to score 100."
Either playing for Central Districts in the Plunket Shield on Thursday or returning to join Fraser in the Wanganui Vet Services Marist team for this weekend's Coastal Challenge Cup final with Paraparaumu, Smith was pleased with the Wanganui team's efforts since he rejoined them in January.
"It was a good day for the lads," he said.
"The young guys like Dylan Martin showed the hard work to win a Hawke Cup game. A hard nose is needed."
In the other games at the weekend, Taranaki ensured they would not finish bottom of the table after a conclusive innings and 16 run hammering of Horowhenua Kapiti, while Hawkes Bay regained the Furlong Cup and earned the right to challenge Nelson for the Hawke Cup after a first innings win over Manawatu.
Wairarapa 1st Innings: 279 in 88.5 overs (J Vorster 85, R Anderson 63, D Ingham 39, P Gluck 34no, A Sprowson 30; D Martin 5-67, C Stewart 3-48, B Smith 2-41).
Wanganui 1st Innings: 385-8 declared in 97 overs (B Smith 122, M Fraser 64, M Simes 54no, J McIlraith 32, A Gill 27, C Stewart 20; D Ingham 3-24, P Sigvertsen 3-92).
Wairarapa 2nd Innings: 80-3 in 24 overs (A Sprowson 34no; D Martin 3-34).
Result: Draw, Wanganui win first innings points
Furlong Cup final points: Hawke's Bay 56, Manawatu 39, Horowhenua-Kapiti 38, Taranaki 37, Wanganui 34, Wairarapa 29.