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Cricket bowling styles: Slow left-arm unorthodox or chinaman

Updated on July 4, 2011
The bowling action of a slow left-arm unorthodox bowler: Australian Brad Hogg
The bowling action of a slow left-arm unorthodox bowler: Australian Brad Hogg | Source

Also known simply as left-arm unorthodox or chinaman bowling, this style refers to the bowling of a left-arm wrist spinner.

Left-arm spinners are divided into two categories: left-arm orthodox (left arm finger spinners) and left-arm unorthodox (left-arm wrist spinners).

The left-arm unorthodox bowler bowls the ball from primarily from the offstump to the leg stump. This is fundamentally the same as a right-arm offspinner.

The difference is that the unorthodox bowler imparts more prodigious turn by virtue of using the wrist action instead of finger spin. In addition, the wrist spinner has more variations than the finger spinner - whether left-arm or right-arm. The chinaman bowler can bowl the flipper and the googly (which turns like a leg spinner's leg break).

The Art of Wrist-Spin Bowling
The Art of Wrist-Spin Bowling

With the striking success of Shane Warne and Abdul Qadir in modern Test cricket, wrist-spin bowling is definitely back in fashion. In this fully illustrated and readable book, Peter Philpott shows players and coaches at all levels how to acquire the skills of this highly dexterous style of bowling.

 
South African Paul Adams had the most unorthodox action of them all.
South African Paul Adams had the most unorthodox action of them all.

Origin of the term "chinaman"

The term "chinaman" has an interesting story behind it and is attributed to Walter Robbins. The West Indies had just been admitted into Test cricket and used a Trinidadian left-arm spinner by the name of Ellis Achong - a player of Chinese extract.

Achong bowled slow left-arm orthodox, but used a wrist spinner's action to dismiss Englishman Robbins, who was stumped by the surprise delivery. Robbins reportedly told teammates, "Fancy being done by a bloody Chinaman!" It was a reference to Achong's appearance as opposed to the delivery, but it was then used to describe left-arm unorthodox bowling ever since.

Exponents of slow left-arm unorthodox bowling

Left-arm bowling is rare in cricket, as are left-arm spinners. However, chinaman bowling is the most rare and unusual of all bowling styles. Notable bowlers include the original "chinaman" Ellis Achong, Australian Brad Hogg, West Indians Sir Garry Sobers and Dave Mohammed, and South African Paul Adams. Adams had the most unusual action of all, with it being described as a "frog in a blender."

Frog in a blender

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