I was a chippy character on the field and, though I took it too far sometimes, I learned to control it to my advantage later in my career.
It fired me up playing against the best players, I had so many battles with Marcus Trescothick against Somerset which had started all the way back in schools cricket.
Andrew Strauss seemed to turn up to get out against Gloucestershire. I remember always being in his ear and that was great fun, and I knew from talking with other players he didn’t enjoy that. But it helped me get wickets. I’d never talked to Freddie Flintoff before I got called up for England – he told me he hadn’t been sure of me because of what I was like, but that I was all right after all!
I had no idea that you could even play cricket as a job when I was young and I didn’t bowl in men’s cricket until the age of 16 with Swindon.
Northants made contact with me first in a Wiltshire game against Staffordshire – the scout was there to watch Jason Brown, but I bowled and batted well and I earned a summer contract.
I was there for a season but didn’t play well before I broke down with injury. I went to play club cricket in New Zealand. I did well and wrote to Gloucestershire explaining my situation and that was my way in. That was 1995, and by the end of August thanks to injuries I made my debut against Warwickshire – Wasim Khan, Leicestershire’s current chief executive, my first wicket.
I travelled with the first team all next year. I was 12th man a lot, played in a few games and Courtney Walsh was my driver as I didn’t have a licence!
Winning with Gloucestershire always meant more to me than wickets, we won seven trophies over five years and the first one was amazing in the B&H Cup – Mark Alleyne hit a ton against a really strong Yorkshire team when no one gave us a chance.
I got my first England call at 29 in 2005, going to South Africa was incredible and I nearly played the third Test at Centurion. I felt I was ready, I knew my method and technique would get me through.
I opened the bowling in a t20 against Australia during the Ashes that year and I was really proud of that – I wasn’t expecting to play but I took the wickets of Andrew Symonds, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke and Damien Martyn.
I felt I really had a chance in the 2006 Tests against Sri Lanka in an injury-hit squad. But Saj Mahmood and Liam Plunkett played the first Test at Lord’s and I felt if I’d played in that one I’d have had a big role to play. Instead I played in the third Test and it was more of a spinners’ wicket, Murali took 11.
I was still in the ODI team but got injured at the start of 2007 which was poor timing – Peter Moores took over as England coach and was a fan of mine but Ryan Sidebottom came into the set-up and was a fairly similar sort of bowler, and I never thought I came back with the same zip.
I did well for Gloucestershire until 2011 – I was their top earner and the club were building a new stand, I didn’t feel I was wanted and they didn’t make me an offer. At 36 I was thinking about retirement, but I was excited about the project at Surrey, though it didn’t really work out.
I’d been planning to coach for a few years by then, and studied John Bracewell, Ian Salisbury, Chris Adams and Mark Robinson.
My final year was at Sussex and as it’s not in my nature to quit, I needed someone to tell me: “Jon, it’s time to give up!” Coaching the bowlers at Sussex now really excites me, the potential in our group is huge.
This piece originally appeared in The Cricket Paper on Friday June 19, 2015.
Tagged Andrew Strauss, Andrew Symonds, Australia, bowling, Chris Adams, Damien Martyn, England, Gloucestershire, Ian Salisbury, Jon Lewis, Mark Robinson, Michael Clarke, Northamptonshire, Peter Moores, Ricky Ponting, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Surrey, Sussex