St George's Park History
Port Elizabeth, South Africa
Origins of Cricket
St George's Park - The Chinaman
So what is a "Chinaman"? In England it's known as a ball bowled by a left-arm wrist-spin bowler that breaks from off to leg when bowled to a right-handed batsman.
In Australia and the West Indies it is a ball bowled by a left-arm, wrist-spin bowler that breaks from leg to off when bowled to a right-handed batsman. In other words, it's the left-arm wrist-spinner's googly.
Left-arm wrist-spin was pioneered in Britain by the Yorkshiremen Roy Kilner (in the 1920's) and Maurice Leyland (in the 1930's), while the Australian 'Chuck' Fleetwood-Smith (who also played in the 1930s) was the founder of the prodigious left-arm googly bowling in Australia where the art flourished with practitioners like Jack Walsh and George Tribe.
The origins of the term itself cannot be established with any certainty. The earliest OED citation for 'chinaman' is from 1937, and it is commonly supposed to have been named after Ellis Achong, a Trinidadian left-arm bowler of Chinese descent who played six Tests for the West Indies between 1929 and 1933.
David Frith reports the story of Walter Robins, who, when stumped off Achong's bowling, is said to have 'turned to Learie Constantine and thundered "Fancy getting out to a bloody chinaman!"'
This sounds a little too good to be true. More probably the term derives from the politically incorrect connotations of inscrutability or deviousness which have traditionally attached in English to the words 'Chinese' and 'Chinaman'.