Cricket World Cup History: David Boon, the impassive Tasmanian
David Boon put Tasmania on the cricket map just as Andy Roberts and Vivian Richards had done for Antigua. Through sheer determination, Boon turned himself into one of the leading batsmen in the world. He became Australia’s Mr Reliable during their period of resurgence and, ultimately, triumph. The impassive Boon was a resolute character and a forceful batsman, an imposing figure in the team led by Allan Border.
The Aussies had carried out a reconnaissance mission to the sub-continent a year before the 1987 World Cup. Boon had taken to the Indian wickets, and when he arrived for the big tournament he felt at home. That was borne out by his innings of 49 against defending champions India. He put up a fine 110-run opening stand with Geoff Marsh. It was a terrific start to a hair-raising match as Australia triumphed by 1 run with one ball to spare.
Boon departed early in the outing with Zimbabwe. He was back in top form in a rain-hit slam-bang 30-overs-a-side skirmish with New Zealand. Boon hit 87 off 96 deliveries with 5 fours and 2 sixes and added 117 in 98 balls for the second wicket with Dean Jones. Australia won again, this time by three runs. Boon was the Man-of-the-Match.
An inspired India piled up 289 for six in 50 overs in the return game. Boon was undaunted, putting on 88 in 18 overs with Marsh. He scored a fine 62 off just 59 deliveries aided by 7 rasping boundaries, but the Australian challenge petered away.
Boon was run out for 14 against New Zealand. He then went on to flay the Zimbabwe attack, smashing a brilliant 93 off 101 balls with 9 fours and a six. He raised 90 for the first wicket with Marsh and another 58 with Jones, to bag his second Man-of-the-Match award. This was David Boon at his best, a superb driver and cutter of the cricket ball.
The big occasion always brought out the best in Boon, and the semi-final was another such stage. He top-scored once more, taking 65 off the Pakistani attack in a 91-ball stint comprising 4 hits to the ropes. Marsh and Jones were his allies again in partnerships of 73 and 82 respectively. Boon’s was certainly a major hand in Pakistan’s stunning defeat and Australia’s entry into their first final in 12 years.
If Boon was brilliant in the semi-final, he was solid when it came to the ultimate test as his side took on England. He dug in to build a firm foundation, scoring 75 off 125 balls with 7 boundaries. Yet again Marsh and Jones joined him in innings-building stands of 75 and 76. Australia reached a total of 253 for five, enough to win them the Reliance Cup, albeit by a small margin of 7 runs. The crowning glory for Boon was the man-of-the-match award, his third in the tournament.
The 1987 World Cup stood out in Boon’s illustrious career. Just a glance at his scores is adequate proof. He hit 49, 2, 87, 62, 14, 93, 65 and 75 runs. He was remarkably consistent and got better and better as the tournament progressed. Skipper Border and coach Bobby Simpson could not have asked for a more resilient fighter to lead the charge. Undoubtedly, he played an extremely significant role in Australia’s first World Cup triumph. His opening partnership with Geoff Marsh became a cornerstone for the re-emergence of the team after the Packer trauma. With Dean Jones also scoring consistently, the top order was highly dependable.
The 1992 World Cup was in home territory and the nucleus of the team was the same. Boon continued to perform nearly as well as he had done during the triumphant campaign of 1987. The difference was that most of his teammates played indifferently. Boon was as determined as ever in the opening match against Martin Crowe’s New Zealanders at Auckland, scoring an exact 100 off 131 balls with 11 boundaries. The ominous sign was that Marsh scored just 19 and Jones was run out for 21. Australia lost by 37 runs.
Australia were the last team to play South Africa in international cricket 22 years earlier. When they met in this tournament, Australia were humiliated again, this time by 9 wickets. Boon was run out for the second time in the tournament, for 27.
The face-off with India bore a remarkable resemblance to their opening encounter in the 1987 tournament. The margin of victory was again an incredible one run in Australia’s favour. Boon had now dropped down to no.3, with left-hander Mark Taylor joining Marsh as an opener. Boon scored 43 and added 71 in a heartening third-wicket partnership with Jones.
Australia suffered their third defeat, and Boon his third run out for 18, against England at Sydney. The Sri Lanka match was happier with an easy win. Boon, batting at no.4, hit the winning runs in the company of Jones and returned 27 not out. It was, however, back to square A with Pakistan trouncing Australia, and Boon registering a rare failure.
Boon was at home in every sense at Hobart against Zimbabwe. He was also back where he belonged - at the top of the order. His new partner Tom Moody was run out early, but Boon renewed his association with Jones to add 94 for the second wicket. He departed for 48 but Australia continued to pile on the runs and logged up a huge win.
They, however, lost the race to the semi-finals. And so the sterling performance in their last league match while trouncing the West Indies proved futile. Boon scored a skillful 100 off 147 balls, stroking 8 boundaries, and ending the 1992 World Cup in exactly the same manner as he had started it. He put on 107 for the first wicket with Moody. Boon completed 4,000 runs in One-day Internationals during the course of this knock and also won the man-of-the-match award for good measure.
At a time when the concept of ‘hitting over the top’ was taking root, Boon offered a different perspective. His view was: “.......it can be tempting to try to hit over the top. But if you think that way, you can get pre-occupied and miss out on other shots because you are waiting for the ball to land on the slot. I have found if you just take it easy and play naturally - defend the good balls, belt the bad ones and take singles when they are there - the runs will flow.”
Once again Boon had performed admirably. He was remarkably consistent through Australia’s highs and lows, doubtlessly a great team-man. The short, rotund figure with a thick, droopy moustache could well have been a character straight out of a comic book. But there was nothing comic about David Boon. He was dead serious on the cricket field and his record is eloquent confirmation. If Australia won the 1987 World Cup in large measure due to his brilliant batting, they could not make headway in 1992 despite his superb performances.
David Boon’s World Cup batting and fielding record:
Matches: 16, Highest Score: 100, Runs: 815, Average: 54.33, Strike-rate: 73.75, Hundreds: 2, Fifties: 5, Catches: 2