The Gloucestershire captain, 30, is one of the leading England-qualified bowlers in this season's county championship and took three for 68 as the hosts bowled out Sri Lanka for 231 on the first day of the third and final Test here at Trent Bridge.
"I don't think I ever thought I wasn't going to play," said the right-arm medium pacer, who has the meanest average of anyone who has taken 20 or more wickets in first-class cricket in England this season.
Lewis has been England's 12th man on a frustrating five previous occasions - but never doubted his time would come.
"If you perform well enough in county cricket, you deserve to get a game," he said on Friday.
"If you get the wickets then you deserve to get a go, it's what I've always believed."
Lewis made an instant impact, bowling opener Michael Vandort for one in his first over in Test cricket after Sri Lanka chose to bat.
But the tourists' Muttiah Muralitharan later frustrated England with the bat, not the ball, leaving England in a tricky position come stumps.
Off-spinner Murali, a thorn in England's side with 13 wickets this series, put on 62 for the last wicket with Chaminda Vaas to take Sri Lanka to 231 all out after they had suffered yet another first innings collapse on the way to 169 for nine.
At stumps, England were 53 for two, a deficit of 178 runs, as they looked to build on their 1-0 series lead.
Hoping to nail a permanent place in the side in the absence of fellow pace bowlers Stephen Harmison, Simon Jones and James Anderson, Lewis stressed his versatility in attack.
"I feel I can get wickets on any sort of wicket," he told reporters after stumps. "I'm not just a swing bowler, I can do other things with the ball and change my pace. I can use the conditions to suit me."
And he has his sights set on claiming a regular spot in England's One-day side, with five-match series against Sri Lanka and Pakistan coming up before the end of the English season.
"I do prefer playing the red-ball game - but I must have a chance of getting in the one-day squad because a few guys are out injured," Lewis said.
England resume Saturday with Alastair Cook 12 not out and Kevin Pietersen unbeaten on six.
Despite Vaas and Muralitharan's stoic last stand and the early dismissal of England openers Marcus Trescothick and Andrew Strauss, Sri Lanka wicket-keeper Kumar Sangakkara denied the tourists had the momentum.
"I think it was a great effort in that situation, they really showed a lot of pride and a lot of heart to get us into this position where we could do something with the game," the 28-year-old said.
"But we shouldn't need the bottom order to show the top order how to bat; we should be doing all the hard work," he added after Sri Lanka suffered their a top order failure in the first innings for the third time this series.
"It's a bit evenly poised. We managed to keep them to 50 runs with a wicket and a run-out, so I reckon if we come and really knuckle down to keeping the runs down as well as chipping away at those wickets, then it will become a keener game.
"There's a bit of rough forming out there. We probably won't get really quick turn on that but all you need is a bit of help from Muralitharan to do even better.
"As long as we keep to our strengths and we are disciplined, I reckon we've got a good chance in this game."
However, Lewis was hoping England would build a giant lead as they looked to seal their first series win since last year's Ashes triumph.
"Nine hundred would be a good score," he joked.
"It's a pretty good pitch, it's quite dry, I imagine it will take some turn later in the game. We'll battling as hard as we can to try and get a really good lead and bowl them out again."