Full name Desmond Robert Cristofani
Born November 14, 1920, Waverley, Sydney, New South Wales
Died August 22, 2002, Canberra, ACT (aged 81 years 281 days)
Major teams New South Wales
Batting style Right-hand bat
Bowling style Legbreak googly
|First-class span||1941/42 - 1946/47|
Cristofani, Desmond Robert, died in Canberra on August 22, 2002, aged 81. It was 57 years to the day since his rousing 110 not out for Australia in the last of the 1945 "Victory Tests" against England. E. W. Swanton used it at the end of his 1946 Wisden article, "Cricket Under the Japs", recalling how his first walk as a free man for three years had taken him to a Thai village. "In the little café our hosts politely turned on the English programme. Yes, we were at Old Trafford, and a gentleman called Cristofani was getting a hundred..." It was some hundred, accounting for all but 31 of the 141 scored after he went in with Australia 69 for six in their second innings on a damp surface drying in brilliant sunshine. Bob Cristofani added 95 in even time with Graham Williams (12) for the ninth wicket; his 14 boundaries included a hooked six off George Pope on to the pavilion terraces. The day before he had finished with five for 55, giving the England batsmen as much trouble with his leg-breaks and googlies as he had when taking four for 43 and five for 49 at Lord's in the third "Test". The previous year, as a 23-year-old pilot officer, Cristofani had been one of many Australian first-grade cricketers who responded to a circular sent to every RAF base by those putting together the summer's RAAF teams. He had played once for New South Wales, against Queensland at Brisbane in December 1941 - the last inter-state game before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor put a stop to first-class cricket for four years. His well-flighted leg-spinners, varying from medium-pace to slow, quickly made an impact in 1944, accounting for four Test players in Charles Barnett, Cyril Washbrook, Bob Wyatt and New Zealand's Ken James when he took seven for 39 in the defeat of the RAF at Lord's. A week later he was back, playing for Australia against The Rest and England over Whitsun weekend. After the RAAF's captain, Keith Carmody, was shot down off the Dutch coast and taken prisoner - a reminder that cricket was merely a welcome distraction from the real business at hand - Cristofani shared the captaincy with Stan Sismey, a fellow New South Welshman. Against New Zealand Services at Maidstone, he led a recovery from 49 for five with a hard-hitting 76, then took nine for ten to skittle the opposition for 45. Performances such as these had some Australians thinking they had found another Clarrie Grimmett. The cricket writer Dick Whitington, a team-mate in the 1945 Australian Services side, reckoned Cristofani's Old Trafford century was "one in which even Victor Trumper could have taken pride". But his serious cricketing days were almost over. After playing in England, India and Australia with the Services side, he turned out only twice for New South Wales when Shield cricket resumed in 1946-47. His long-term future lay with Australia's Department of Trade, with which he held several overseas postings. In 18 first-class games he scored 747 runs at 26.75 and took 48 wickets at 32.93; Old Trafford and Lord's witnessed his best performances.
Wisden Cricketers' Almanack 2003
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