by Aidan Chivers
In the year 458 BC, things were not looking good for Rome. Just recovering from internal frictions between patricians and plebeians, the relentless onslaught from their enemies the Aequi was becoming increasingly alarming. At a time of such desperation it fell upon one man to step up and lead the Romans, to save them from a series of attacks that looked sure to destroy the nation of Rome. In a move ever after considered a shining example of civic virtue, outstanding leadership, and pietas, Cincinnatus led his army to Mons Algidus, and served Rome when it needed him most.
Fast forward two and a half millennia to 14th October 2015 and the English test cricket team found itself in similarly dire straits. Facing Pakistan’s colossal first innings total of five hundred and twenty-three, with three and a half long days stretching out ahead of them, leadership, courage and perseverance were in immense demand.
Thankfully, these admirable qualities resided in abundance in the England captain, who, taking to the crease, blocked, left, and ducked his way to a record-breaking personal innings of five hundred and twenty-eight deliveries. He did not return to the pavilion until almost fourteen hours of gruelling, painstaking defence had been successfully undertaken.
Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus built a wall around the Aequi, and fought to hold onto it until it was clear there was no way through. Alastair Nathan Cook built his stronghold between bat and pad, keeping out the Pakistani advances over three days of onerous, arduous defence. The pride of the English test side was preserved, just as the great nation of Rome had survived for another nine hundred years.
Cincinnatus was, at heart, a farmer. Famously, following his victory of such immense proportions, he did not stay to bathe in glory in Rome, but returned to his plough, and modestly resumed his former life. Posterity has held him up as a paradigm of decency and honour, with his feet firmly on the ground. Cook too, at the end of each test series, whether it end in triumph or disaster, feels the summons of his family life on the farm. After one hundred and twenty-two English test caps, nothing will ever keep him long from returning to feed his chickens and to muck out the horses.