Great cricket drinking episodes, No 2 – David Boon smashes 52 not out in a session

A fine example to all aspiring binge drinkers.

I am indebted to Peter Lalor’s article in The Weekend Australian Magazine December 20-21, 2003, which was the main source of information for this post. It’s well worth a read.

You knew, dear reader, that it wouldn’t be too long into a series of articles on drinking in sport before an Australian popped up. This, after all, is the country that felt the need to limit motor-racing spectators at the Bathurst 1000 to a paltry 24 cans of full strength beer per person per day (36 for lower strength stuff). Maybe I’m just a lightweight, but I’d be pretty well potted after less than half of that.

For those of you keeping score at home, let’s just be clear. One ‘beer’ in the context of all that is about to follow is the Australian standard ‘tinny’ or ‘stubby’ of 375ml, rather than the rather larger 500ml cans we get here. Each one is around 2/3 of a pint.

There have been few drinking cultures more terrifying than that of the Australian cricket team in the 1970s and 1980s. These guys meant business and there was no better time than to commence a good binge than on a long-haul flight back to the Antipodes from other cricket-playing parts of the world, with free booze, efficient hostesses to keep bringing it, conveniently located toilets, little else to do and no sense of moderation or shame. The idea of this becoming a challenge was something of a serendipity by Doug Walters and Rod Marsh on their way back from the Caribbean in 1973. The mathematics were simple – a 30 hour flight; Walters reckoned he could neck 25 cans of beer in that time, Marsh 35. No one, least of all the two themselves, knows to this day how much they actually got through.

Four years after this initial dabble in competitive drinking, on the way to England ahead of the Ashes, a full-scale competition, including rules, bets and official scorers, was devised. Pretty much the entire plane was invited to take part, but Walters and Marsh were once again the ringleaders. The full, gruesome details of that particular Test can be found in the article at the top of this post. However, that binge is not the focus of this article, save to say that Walters was officially clocked at an eye-popping 44 tinnies by the end of the flight. A record, surely, never to be broken?

Well, no. In fact it only lasted until 1983, when Rod Marsh, a man with a moustache so wild it needs walking twice daily, equalled and then, with extreme reluctance, broke Walters’s record, with the final beer being almost literally forced down his throat by team mates who weren’t about to see all that liver damage go to waste. For the record, Marsh was unable to leave the plane under his own steam and instead had to be loaded onto a luggage trolley in order to make it to customs. But if Rod Marsh, a man who ‘just didn’t get pissed’ according to Geoff Lawson, could only just break the record, it would take a man with superhuman drinking abilities to get anywhere near again. Wouldn’t it?

Enter stage left David Boon and his equally magnificent ‘tache. Despite being a fine cricketer, with 107 Tests and 21 centuries under his substantial belt, no one really remembers Boonie for his cricketing ability. Everyone remembers him for the Sydney to London flight in 1983. Except, it seems, Boonie himself, who has consistently denied that the alleged event ever took place – ‘Never spoke about it, never will’. That’s alright David, to be honest, I don’t think I’d be able to remember it either. It might also have something to with the fact that times had changed – Allan Border and Bob Simpson had introduced something called ‘fitness’ into the cricketing equation – a concept that did not really lend itself to drinking yourself into the ground in the name of boldly going where no pissant had ever gone before.

Unlike the earlier attempts, Boon was seemingly alone, with only Lawson cutting notches into a stick (not really) to keep score. Because of the disapproving Simpson, the whole event was much more incognito. The tally by the end of the first leg, at Singapore, was an already-impressive 22. Quite what went on over the subsequent hours is unknown, except that there was a lot of vomiting, according to Lawson, and, of course, a lot of drinking. Shortly before landing, however, the captain announced over the PA that Boon had managed to consume, down, neck and generally imbibe 52 of the little fellas. Everybody applauded except Simpson, who apparently turned a violent shade of puce, and presumably a few of the other ‘pooftahs’ (to use the technical Australian term for a teetotaller) who didn’t approve.

The mathematics are mindboggling: 52 beers at 375ml each is 19.5 litres or 34.33 pints. Victoria Bitter, a popular full-strength Aussie beer, is 4.6% ABV. If that’s what Boon was drinking (history doesn’t relate), that’s very nearly 900ml of pure alcohol, or 89.7 UK units. Those in the know advise us that 21 units per week is as much as the average man should drink. Boon drank well over four times that in 24 hours.

Despite this, and presumably gaining some man points in the process, Boon was by all accounts able to walk from the plane, before being wheeled into a press conference (fortunately no journo bothered to ask him a question) and then (one would sincerely hope) straight off to bed. By the time Simpson tried to hush it up, another moustachioed one, Merv Hughes, had already bragged about it to four or five radio stations, which just made Simpson even angrier. Both players were put on probation. The episode didn’t seem to permanently affect Boon, who had an excellent tour, averaging 56.78, including 12 scores over 50 (if you include the one he racked up before he even arrived…).

No one has ever beaten the 52 – it stands up there with Bradman’s 99.94 and Mahut and Isner’s 70-68 as records unlikely to ever be surpassed. Many have tried, including ogre-faced royal Mike Tindall,who apparently neared 50, but all have failed. This shouldn’t be considered shameful, however. Given how pitifully their cricket team is performing at the moment, I think it’s the least we can do to let them have some worthless totem of something that they’re actually good at.

Next time, Andrew Flintoff wears some sunglasses.

Other Great cricket drinking episodes:

No 1 – Headingley 1981

No 3 – The Ashes 2005

2013 Roundup

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  1. Paul Heggart

     /  November 27, 2012

    “Given how pitifully their cricket team is performing at the moment, I think it’s the least we can do to let them have some worthless totem of something that they’re actually good at.”

    Classic bluster-filled, colonialist hubris. Back in your box pom. Your mob have had your five minutes in the sun. Hahahahahaha

  1. Great Cricket Drinking Episodes – No. 3: The Ashes 2005 « Two Grumpy England Cricket Fans
  2. Great Cricket Drinking Episodes: 2013 round-up | Two Grumpy England Cricket Fans
  3. Great cricket drinking episodes, No. 1 – Headingley 1981 | Two Grumpy England Cricket Fans
  4. Sports players can really drink. Like, a lot.

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