Nottinghamshire’s signing of all-rounder Chris Lewis ahead of the 1992 season was a major coup for the county. Already capped by England in Tests and One-Day Internationals, Lewis was a fast bowler and hard-hitting middle order batsman, seen by some as the latest answer to England’s search for ‘the next Ian Botham.’
Born in Georgetown, Guyana on 14 February 1968, Clairmonte Christopher Lewis moved to England with his family as a child and grew up in north London. He joined his first county, Leicestershire, in 1987 making his debut in June of that year. In the winter of 1989/90 he was chosen for the England A tour of Zimbabwe but injuries in the first team saw him promoted into the full England squad touring West Indies, where in February 1990 he made the first of his 53 One-Day International appearances. Test honours followed in the summer when Lewis made his debut against New Zealand.
Keen to further his international ambitions, he sought a move away from Grace Road at the end of the 1991 season. He had played in seven Tests and 14 ODIs when he was signed by Nottinghamshire and appeared in the 1992 World Cup, including the Final in Melbourne, shortly before arriving at Trent Bridge.
Lewis made his Notts debut in April 1992 in both the Sunday League and the County Championship. In just his second Championship appearance he demonstrated his all-round skills with an unbeaten 134 and a five-wicket haul. Towards the end of that season, he recorded his best bowling analysis for Notts, taking 6-90 against Surrey. He finished a successful first season top of the Notts’ First-Class bowling averages and second in the batting table.
His second season with Nottinghamshire was less productive but he did hit his top score for the County of 247. At the time this was the highest by a Nottinghamshire batsman since the War and it also contributed to a county record 7th wicket partnership of 301 with Bruce French. International call-ups continued throughout Lewis’s time with Nottinghamshire and he won 20 of his 32 England Test caps whilst with the County.
In 1994, Lewis topped the First-Class batting and bowling averages for Nottinghamshire but he played his final Championship match for the County in that season. Relationships with some other players and some spectators began to sour. Lewis sustained a hip injury early in the 1995 season and he was unavailable for selection. In mid-season, after just 4 List A matches, Nottinghamshire agreed to release him part way through the fourth year of his six-year contract. Relationships had deteriorated to such an extent that Simon Hughes in The Daily Telegraph reported that ‘when his release was announced on the ground, there was audible cheering’. In his autobiography, Lewis gave his own verdict : ‘The whole experience in Nottingham was a very forgettable one. I just never felt part of the club.’
In his 37 First-Class matches for Nottinghamshire, Lewis claimed 127 wickets and scored 2,256 runs, at an excellent average of 47. In List A cricket, he played on 41 occasions, scoring 802 runs and taking 49 wickets.
Lewis joined Surrey and stayed at The Oval for two seasons, before ending his full-time cricket career in 2000 after two years back with Leicestershire. He returned to top cricket very briefly in 2008 with a T20 single outing for Surrey. Lewis played his final Test in 1996 and his last ODI in 1998. He achieved much in his 14 seasons in the County game but many felt that he had not made the best of his undoubted talents.
Several controversial incidents surrounded Chris Lewis during his playing career and another came in 2008 when he was arrested and charged with smuggling cocaine into the country. He was convicted and served 6 years of a 13-year prison sentence. Since his release, he has written and spoken openly about his career and post cricket experiences. His autobiography Crazy : my road to redemption was published in 2017 and was followed in 2019 by The Long Walk Back, a play about his life by Dougie Blaxland. Lewis has worked with the Professional Cricketers Association to help young cricketers learn from his experiences and also speaks to a range of audiences with great honesty and humility.