A gradual but inevitable descent into cricket-based loathing and bile.

Whatever Happened To The Unlikely Lads? #14: Jon Lewis

Posted on July 12, 2012 by in Opinion


One of the downsides of being addicted to crystal meth is the large number of terrifying flashbacks. Only last week, while attempting to steal some much-needed deodorant from our local BP garage, we had something of a funny turn that left us feeling like we were falling backwards through time, all the way back past Windows Vista to the summer of 2005. We found ourselves floating above an old sofa, one that we know far too well, watching our younger selves watching Australia being mauled at the Rose Bowl. And the identity of the mauler-in-chief on that particular occasion?

#14: Jonathan Lewis

As well as running a rather successful set of department stores (with gross sales of £3.3 billion in the year ending January 28th, 2012), Jon Lewis was also the star of a key moment in the history of English cricket. It seems hard to comprehend nowadays, but back in 2005 the idea of actually beating Australia to win the Ashes seemed like a dream. Time after time England would talk up their side going into the series against the old enemy; time after time they’d be put to the sword by the likes of Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and man/rat hybrid Ricky Ponting. But 2005 was different. This time there was more than just hope. There was expectation.

In an all-too-rare show of common sense, the fixtures were actually the right way around. Not one but two ODI series preceded the Tests and, in a brave new move for international cricket, a single T20I preceded the ODIs. This was only the second T20 international ever to take place, and the first not to be ruined by Hamish Marshall’s ridiculous haircut and Billy Bowden pissing about.

With absolutely no history to go on, England picked a fairly standard side containing the likes of Vaughan, Strauss, Trescothick, Flintoff and Collingwood. Geraint Jones kept wicket while Steve Harmison and Darren Gough led the bowling attack. There were a couple of concessions to the T20 format though, in the form of Vikram Solanki and Jon Lewis.

England’s seam attack was quite intimidating back then.

Batting first England made 179/8 from their 20 overs, with Paul Collingwood’s 46 the top score. For some reason Geraint Jones opened the batting with Trescothick, reminding everyone that even if the format was new, the obsession with having a wicketkeeper born outside of the British Isles failing to hit the ball over the top at the start of the innings remained. It seemed like a decent score, but no more than that. Surely this vastly experienced Australian side – no fewer than nine of their players had played every T20I ever before this game – would chase it down.

It’s probably fair to say the crowd were almost rabid by the time England’s bowlers got underway. After 18 runs from the first two overs, things suddenly swung dramatically in England’s favour. Gough had Gilchrist and Hayden caught from consecutive balls, both skied catches well judged by a skunk-haired Kevin Pietersen. And then Jon Lewis joined in the fun. He had Clarke caught behind, Symonds caught at midwicket and Ponting caught at short-extra cover, all for ducks. Damien Martyn followed shortly after, caught at slip for just 4. Mike Hussey also fell to Gough and Australia found themselves 31/7, not so much staring down the barrel as having their heads firmly wedged in it.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so a YouTube video must be worth millions. Here’s the best we could find – unfortunately it doesn’t cover the whole period described above, but it does include Nasser Hussain getting very excited about KP being a world class fielder.

Lewis finished with figures of 4/24 as Australia fought their way up to the heady heights of 79 all out, losing by a cool hundred runs. It remains England’s largest ever T20I victory margin (batting first) and set the tone for a frantic summer in which the two sides traded blows like Jesse Ryder and some old guy.

Of course, Jon Lewis’s career was much more than just those 24 deliveries. He played one Test for England, against Sri Lanka in 2006, picking up a wicket in his first over before being one of Murali’s eight second-innings wickets as Sri Lanka won comfortably. He (Lewis) also played 13 ODIs and was part of England’s remarkable win in the Commonwealth Bank Series after the 2006/7 Ashes, although he left injured before the finals. He was also part of England’s World Cup squad later that year but didn’t play in the tournament before returning home for personal reasons (i.e. he was bored and wanted to watch Bargain Hunt).

Lewis played just one more international T20 game, again taking on Australia in Sydney in 2007 and with very different results, taking 0/31 from three overs as Australia won by 77 runs. He also suffered the ignominy of getting out to pie-chucking pie-eater Cameron White.

Jon Lewis contemplates leaving his clothes in a pile on the beach and disappearing forever.

Away from the international scene, Lewis played for Gloucestershire for 16 years, taking nearly 800 wickets and bowling literally thousands of overs every year. He was a key part of his county’s very successful one day side of the late nineties and early noughties before eventually moving to Surrey. And yet he was clearly never cut out for international cricket. If Geraint Jones can stand up to the wicket to your bowling, you know you’re not going to trouble many top class batsmen, that’s for sure. And yet, with one glorious four over spell, he (with a little help from Darren Gough) set England on their way towards their most significant summer of all.


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