Cricket: Boon the bedrock of Australia's ascendancy: Uncomplicated Tasmanian is a dedicated team man whose feats are achieved without fanfare. Jon Culley reports

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The Independent Online
ON THE face of it, this has been an Ashes summer of blossoming youth from the Australian perspective. The extraordinary, thrilling capabilities revealed by the leg-spinner Shane Warne and the eye-catching emergence of Michael Slater as a Test batsman of immense promise must fill the tourists with a warm anticipation of coming wealth. Both are but 23 years old with almost their whole careers ahead of them.

These two were always liable to be the headline stealers: Warne possessed of bronzed blond good looks and a wild-boy reputation, Slater impishly eager and brimming with natural class. But neither has been the most powerful element in the Australians' success.

When David Boon completed a century against Durham on Monday it was the seventh time he had done so in 14 first-class innings since the tour began. Like so much of his contribution to the Australian cause, it was appreciated but with minimal fuss. Indeed, the 11 lollipop overs delivered by a former England all-rounder long past his prime attracted considerably more interest, albeit for obvious reasons.

This, however, is of little concern to the stocky Tasmanian, whose steady accumulation of runs has provided the bedrock of the Australian team for the last three years. Quietly spoken, the impression he leaves is of a man without the need for fanfares to mark his achievements, merely a continuing demand for his services.

'To me the most important thing is the team, and that is the way I try to approach the job. To make runs for the team is the main driving force, above personal ambition. I've never been one for statistics. I enjoy my cricket and scoring a few runs helps but I'm happy so long as the team is doing well.'

None the less, Boon's achievements are considerable. Physically he is unimpressive, with a somewhat thicker girth than would normally be seen as appropriate for a man of his height. But the low centre of gravity and the power in his broad upper body give him a natural advantage when cutting or pulling and woe betide the bowler who fails to take heed. In his uncomplicated way, Boon has raised himself to fifth on the list of Australian cricket's most productive Test batsmen.

Over the last three summers back home, he has topped the Australian Test averages by wide margins, averaging above 75 against England in 1990-91 and India in 1991-92, when he made hundreds in each of the last three Tests. To an extent his fortunes declined, in common with Australia's, as the West Indies turned the last series on its head but even so he finished only 10 runs short of a 500- run Test aggregate for the third consecutive home summer.

His own appraisal of his career may be modest but his captain, Allan Border, describes him as 'the linchpin of Australia's batting', while Bobby Simpson, the team manager, now rates him as the best batsman in the world against pace or spin.

Boon's total for the current tour rose to 1,116 at Durham, his average 93.00. 'This is my third Ashes tour and I'd not previously felt so comfortable as I have this time. It is hard to say whether I am at my peak now but for the last three years things have been going very well for me. I'm always striving for consistency. In 1985 I did well in county games but got only 150 in Tests, in 1989 I was reasonably consistent without getting a Test hundred. This year, happily, I've achieved consistency and Test hundreds.'

His unbeaten 164 at Lord's ended suggestions that his quest for a three- figure Test score here was in some way jinxed. It was his 16th Test hundred but his first in 21 attempts in England. The 17th, out of 77 Tests, arrived at Trent Bridge.

'It was not something I ever worried about. Some of the media people were beginning to make something of the fact that I have not got one here but if you start thinking that there is a problem then you are going to create an unnecessary pressure for yourself.

'I'm not one for giving myself objectives because you can start trying too hard to achieve certain targets and make things too intense for yourself. My only real ambition is always to play to the best of my ability.'

The other empowering factor is patriotism. 'Ultimately, cricket is all about playing for your country. I cannot understand the suggestion that anyone could pull on an England cap and not want to give 150 per cent.

'One of our secrets, I believe, is that everybody backs everybody else to the hilt. We try to keep everybody within a really tight team unit with a core of players who have been together for four or five years, who know each other and each other's games really well.

'We are in a period of transition although it is minimal transition. We are bringing new players forward but they are coming into the side knowing that they have equal rights with the senior players, that they are not secondary to anyone. It is the unity that develops that helps pull you through when things get tough.'

If this may seem an indirect criticism it is not intended as such. The uncharitable view of English attitudes voiced by some of his compatriots is not one that Boon shares.

'I don't think that the English are nearly as bad as some people have made out. They have had a tough run. They are trying to rebuild, just as we did in 1985-86. It is hard to play well against a side that is on top if you are in a bad run and what some people seem to overlook is the fact that, so far this series, Australia have played pretty well.'

(Photograph omitted)