In cricket, left-arm unorthodox spin â€“ often known as slow left-arm chinaman and abbreviated to SLC â€“ is a style of bowling. The bowler uses a wrist torsion action to spin the ball so that when it pitches it turns from off to leg for a right-handed batsman, i.e. from left to right from the bowler's perspective. The action and direction of turn exactly mirror those of a conventional right-handed leg spin bowler. Charlie 'Buck' Llewellyn, a South African all-rounder who played at the end of the 19th century, laid claim to inventing the delivery. Some chinaman bowlers occasionally bowl the mirror image of a leg-spinner's "googly" (or "wrong'un" in Australia), which turns in the opposite way in order to trick the batsman. In this instance the ball turns away from the batsman, as if the bowler were an orthodox left-arm spinner.
The chinaman style of bowling is very rare, as not only is it difficult to bowl accurately (in common with leg spin), but the turn into the right-handed batsman is seen as less dangerous than the turn away from the batsman generated by an orthodox left-arm spinner, so virtually all left-armers choose to bowl orthodox. Very few specialist chinaman bowlers have played at Test level. The South African Paul Adams, well known for his unusual "frog-in-a-blender" bowling action, is perhaps the best known recent practitioner and has taken more Test wickets through chinaman bowling than any other player. The Australian Brad Hogg is the most successful ODI chinaman bowler, with over 100 wickets, but he does not regularly play in Tests. The young chinaman bowler Dave Mohammed of the West Indies has also played sporadically for his country since 2004. In recent times, Simon Katich and before him Michael Bevan have also bowled chinamen for Australia, although this role was secondary to their batting.
Historically the most famous practitioner of the art was the West Indian all-rounder Garfield Sobers, but he performed it as a third bowling style after left-arm orthodox spin and left-arm fast-medium. Previously, Johnny Wardle bowled both chinamen and orthodox left-arm spinners for England in the 1940s and '50s, and Leslie "Chuck" Fleetwood-Smith bowled chinamen for Australia in the 1930s.
Origin of the term "chinaman"
The term "chinaman" to describe this particular style of bowling is of uncertain origin, and Wisden has at different times given two explanations.
In one version, the term is believed to relate to former West Indian spin bowler Ellis "Puss" Achong. in the 1933 Old Trafford Test match, Achong, a left-arm orthodox spinner and the first Test cricketer of Chinese ancestry, bowled an unexpected wrist-spin delivery turning from off to leg, and had the English batsman Walter Robins stumped by Ivan Barrow as a result. Legend has it that Robins, as he walked back to the pavilion, remarked "Fancy being done by a bloody Chinaman". The 1987 obituary of Achong in Wisden says that the dismissal of Robins gave the term currency in England.
But the 1968 Wisden obituary of Maurice Leyland has the following: "According to Bill Bowes, Maurice claimed he was responsible for the term 'Chinaman'. Because his chances of bowling were few, he began bowling the occasional left-hander's off-break instead of the normal and natural leg-break. Whenever two batsmen were difficult to shift or something different was wanted someone in the Yorkshire team would say, 'Put on Maurice to bowl some of those Chinese things'. Roy Kilner explained, 'It's foreign stuff and you can't call it anything else'." The plausibility of this explanation is perhaps compromised by the fact that when Kilner died Leyland had taken only 11 wickets in eight first-class seasons (no more than four in any single season) â€“ he didn't really get going as a bowler until 1928, and it was probably Kilner's death in April that year just before the start of the season in England that opened up greater possibilities for Leyland to bowl than he had had before.