Before the T20 World Cup qualifiers happen in two weeks' time, an early cricket showdown will happen this weekend in Tāmaki Makaurau.
The Auckland Māori cricket team is to take on the Cook Islands at Macleans College across three T20 matches, two games to be played on Saturday, September 3, with the third on Sunday.
The games serve as preparation for the Cook Islands, which will venture to the T20 World Cup qualifiers in Vanuatu, in less than a fortnight.
Auckland Māori men's cricket squad coach Michael Tillett says the upcoming matches are important for the team, and includes talent at domestic and international levels.
"It's important for them to come together as a team before they head off to the ICC qualifiers so they know each other's strengths and weaknesses and are match-ready for their important qualifiers."
With the likes of cricket's Māori and Pacific sporting players like Ross Taylor and Ben Lister helping to attract Māori and Pacific peoples, Tillett says it's important to keep that growth going.
"New Zealand Cricket has been great at this in starting new initiatives such as the New Zealand Māori secondary schools tournament to encourage that, and give Māori a connection to not only to the sport but also o their whakapapa as well."
On top of having players from regions and international levels, youth and experience are also part of the squad.
"They are coming together, sharing that knowledge and progressing each other's careers in different ways.
"Purely as a spectator, I'm excited to see what they can do at the park."
With more T20 World Cup qualifiers happening, Tillett is open to having more international matchups for his Auckland Māori team, perhaps even facing an indigenous side from Australia one day. In the meantime, the Auckland Māori team will have two fixtures against the Northern Māori side on Labour Weekend this year in Tauranga.
If there's one thing that Tillett wants for his players this weekend, it's whanuangatanga.
"I would like for them to get a sense of belonging, that they can be Māori and play cricket as well."