The only surprise when it finally arrived for such an explosive batsman was that it did so with more of a whimper than a bang. But with a campaign chest full of medals to take with him, retirement from battle holds few fears for 41-year-old Alistair Brown.
With almost 17,000 first-class runs to his name over a near 20-year career he can reel off a host of innings that the bigger guns can’t match.
The 176 he struck from 97 balls for Surrey was the undoubted highlight of their world record 496 for 4 in a one-day match against Gloucestershire in 2007. And his career-defining 268 against Glamorgan in a 50-over game remains one of the most inspiring in the history of the game.
His one disappointment it is that not enough of them hit the headlines when he was on the international stage. Selected for his country in a one-day series against India, he was branded “a clown” by one newspaper writer after a harum-scarum knock of 34 in his first game.
A duck followed before a century in his third match, only for him to be overlooked for two years, before an unforgettable 2001 NatWest Series.
He recalls: “When I made my debut everyone was trying to be Sri Lanka after the World Cup and they wanted me for the Jayasuriya role. We were trying to do it on wickets that were nothing like Colombo, unfortunately. The covers had been on for two days and nobody remembers that India were 50 odd for 5.”
The difference between then and now is what strikes the Beckenham-born batsman most as he packs away his willow for the last time.
He says: “We seemed to be under more pressure and were always looking over our shoulders. If you can be dropped after a century you can be dropped at any time. Younger players play with no fear these days and that is a welcome change. Twenty20 has helped things too.
“Twenty years ago people would have laughed at you trying to chase down 200 in 20 overs, but now they believe it. It is a very positive development. The England set-up is also now extremely well run which it’s great for guys like Alex Hales coming through. I’m leaving the game in a great state – I just wish I was ten or 15 years younger!”
Brown was one of three ever-presents for Nottinghamshire last season, and his 805 runs in their middle order helped secure the Division One title.
But a back injury suffered during fielding drills in February this year sowed the seeds of doubt. And when a total of 34 runs in five innings for the first team followed his mind was made up.
He says: “I felt I made a few mistakes this year that I wouldn’t ordinarily have made. The body wasn’t always reacting to what the head was telling it.
“I remember walking off the field in what turned out to be my last first-class game and said to my house-mate Mark Wagh I feel it now – and I was right. I’m happy with the decision I’ve made because it is nice to walk away on your own terms and nobody else’s.”
Brown intends to take some time off from cricket to rest and recover, as well as to help his two young sons Max and Joe develop their games. With a likely announcement at Christmas, he then intends to get back into coaching and help the next generation of crowd-pleasers clear the ropes.
His philosophy is clear: “Individual innings are nice, but it’s trophies that count – and that’s what I want to take forward.”