Many of the more colourful men to captain the England cricket team did so in the 1920s. One of the most unusual was JWHT Douglas, who won a gold medal for boxing in the 1908 Olympics. He was an amateur cricketer – he was not paid for playing cricket but instead relied on his father, the owner of a successful timber merchants, for his financial well-being. In those times, amateur cricketers (who invariably came from the “better” classes and were of a higher social status than the professionals) were supposed to play attractive, entertaining and aesthetically pleasing cricket as, unlike professionals, their livelihood did not depend on the game and they could take greater risks. Johnny Douglas did not fit that pattern.
It is fairly easy to establish that Ellis “Puss” Achong had, in reality, no association with the delivery known to cricket as the “chinaman” (an off-break bowled by a left-arm wrist-spinner); that he was not actually a wrist-spinner; that the first left-arm wrist-spinner predated him by approximately 30 years; and that the famous story of how Walter Robins was dismissed by him was so unremarkable at the time that no-one commented on it. But this leaves a question unanswered. If the delivery was not named when Achong dismissed Robins, where did the name come from? It is possible that the answer is Yorkshire.
Most reference works give a well-known story to explain the name for the “chinaman”, the delivery bowled by a left-handed wrist-spinner which spins into a right-handed batsman. It seems to be widely accepted as the truth and not questioned. Which is unfortunate as almost every part, without too much research, can be proven to be wrong.
The negative effects of retirement upon sportsmen (and cricketers in particular) is now widely recognised but when Macaulay’s career ended in 1935, these were barely considered. Those professionals lucky enough to have a length career would have had the proceeds of their benefit to support them. Many, such as George Hirst, Patsy Hendren and (briefly) Wilfred Rhodes, went into coaching, often at public schools. Others such as Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe opened their own businesses, often selling sporting goods and trading on the fame of their name. Others, including Ted MacDonald or Fred Root, went back into League Cricket, playing for many years at a lower level for not much less in the way of wages. Some, such as Abe Waddington, pursued other interests (in his case: golf, cars and running the family business). But retirement is often a huge shock to sportsmen and can induce depression and other difficulties. This may explain the sad end of Macaulay’s life, a mere six years after his retirement.
What kind of bowler was Macaulay, and how good was he? By common consent, his action and delivery were nothing out of the ordinary. Footage available on the British Pathé website shows Macaulay bowling in the Roses match of 1925, albeit from a distance; a closer shot from 1935 shows him bowling, a little self-consciously, for the camera in a feature on Yorkshire. The technical side of his bowling is perhaps unremarkable; other bowlers, before and after him, switched between spin and pace. He performed the role of two bowlers: a new-ball, medium-paced swing bowler and a spinner.
In total, George Macaulay took 1,837 first-class wickets at an average of 17.65. In eight Test matches, he took 24 wickets at an average of 27.58. With the bat, he scored 6,055 runs at an average of 18.07 and in the field he held 373 catches. He took 100 wickets in a season ten times, a record only surpassed by four others for Yorkshire, while only three other Yorkshire bowlers have taken 200 wickets in a season. He also took four hat-tricks. With Macaulay in the side, Yorkshire won the Championship in 1922, 1923, 1924, 1925, 1931, 1932, 1933 and 1935.
Although Yorkshire were County Champions in 1924, it was not a good season for them. Amid their uncertain form, the defeat by Middlesex at Lord’s was followed by the Waddington Incident, a public spat with Middlesex, and the public censure of Abe Waddington by the MCC. After this, Yorkshire were bowled out for 33 by Lancashire while chasing 58 to win at Headingley; in games against the other "Big Six" counties (Middlesex, Lancashire, Nottinghamshire, Surrey and Kent), they had a poor record. The batting was uncertain. The remainder of Yorkshire’s season remained bumpy. The Times correspondent noted, while reporting on the Waddington Incident, that pavilion gossips and Lord's and the Oval could talk of little else. And when Yorkshire played Surrey at the Oval at the end of August, these particular gossips had a chance for first-hand involvement.