He should have played for England and as well as helping Sussex win three Championships he would love to have played a bigger part in their one-day success.

But as Jason Lewry cleared out his locker at Hove for the last time this week and contemplated retirement after 16 seasons he had one over-riding emotion.

He said: “I have absolutely no regrets. When I started in 1994 I didn’t know what a first-class wicket was, never mind how hard it was to take one. Once I got in the team regularly I set myself a target of taking 300 wickets without thinking anything other than I’d be sent back to Goring CC with my tail between my legs.”

Has there been a more naturally gifted left-arm bowler in English cricket for the past two decades? Probably not and Lewry’s record of 621 wickets at 27 runs apiece is testament to his enduring skill.

Of course he should have played for England. It is a travesty that someone with Lewry’s skill got no further than an A tour to South Africa in 1999 where he was homesick and struggled to perform.

There were injuries. A stress fracture of the back a decade ago came when he was reaching his peak and sidelined him for a year. There were the usual bowler’s stresses and strains and, in recent years, persistent knee problems which meant more surgery and eventually forced him to admit that at 38 he had reached the end of the road.

How close was he to playing for his country? “I was written and talked about but no selector ever rung me,” he said.

“If I had been good enough I would have played. I felt I had the ability but I would never have been strong enough to cope with the pressure of stepping up to the next level.

“I don’t like travelling or being away from home for long – Manchester is long enough away for me. I found my level at Sussex and was happy with that.”

Lewry was an integral part of Sussex’s three Championship triumphs but the first of them in 2003, when he took eight wickets in the title-clincher against Leicestershire despite a monumental hangover, is his most cherished memory.

Then there were the personal milestones. Two hat-tricks including seven wickets in 14 balls on that unforgettable Saturday morning in 2001 when he laid waste to the Hampshire top order. “I’m proud of my record. I took 621 wickets which is more than any other Sussex bowler in the modern era.”

Ironically, by playing so little one-day cricket in recent years Lewry has prolonged his career but he would love to have featured in a Lord’s final or been part of Sussex’s Twenty20 renaissance.

He said: “I had a shoulder injury and couldn’t throw for three months so (former coach) Peter Moores told me I wasn’t going to play in the one-day team. I couldn’t get back in the side and decided I didn’t want to play one-dayers anymore.

“Looking back it was an immature response, especially the way Twenty20 has exploded. I did play in the Twenty20 launch game in 2003 and took the first wicket and got hit for the first six though!”

For someone with such strong Sussex roots it’s surprising to learn he got as far as discussing terms with Nottinghamshire and Hampshire in 1999.

He said: “I was never seriously tempted. If I hadn’t been able to play for Sussex, where I was born and bred, I would probably have given up.”

What a loss to Sussex cricket that would have been. Since 1994 Lewry has seen the best and worst of times at Hove but his only frustration came this season when the wicket-taking deliveries became fewer and fewer and he could not perform the way he wanted.

He said: “I have bowled okay but instead of three or four wickets it has been ones and twos. I lost my potency and became a stock bowler which is not what I’m about so in a way I feel relieved that it’s all over.”

Lewry has no firm plans for life after cricket. His son William plays for the county under-11s and he will be a frequent visitor to Hove next season. He might even put all that experience to use and go on the umpires’ course.

But for the next few weeks he will rest those weary knees and reflect.

He said: “I’ll miss the changing room camaraderie more than anything – it’s why I played for as long as I did. I enjoyed my own success but also those of the ten blokes I played with. I have played for 16 years and it’s gone in a flash.”