Games People Play: Nigel Havers, Actor, 47

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I HAVE always been mad on cricket. I started playing at prep school, when I was six or seven years old. Cricket is rather like being at war. You keep secrets from the other side, and you allow things to happen, lulling the enemy into a false sense of security. Then you can attack without them knowing, and bring up the rearguard action. It's just like being in the trenches.

If you watch an hour or so of a game, there's only ever any concentrated action for about four minutes. The rest of the time, people are waiting around, getting nervous and thinking about what they're going to do. Appearing to be relaxed is all part of the scam. Cricket is something that's part and parcel of the character of this country; it's about keeping a stiff upper lip and being gracious in defeat.

All sorts of things go into a game of cricket, but you almost have to be a cricketer to understand it. Apart from anything to do with the physical side, it resembles a game of chess; you're always trying to outwit the opposition.

A proper match takes place over five days, and involves tactics and great mental agility. Some players will shout at the umpire, but it's very important to keep your cool when all around you are crumbling and losing theirs.

Village cricket is still very big. I was never much good at playing, but I'm a great observer, and I can spend a whole day watching it. I don't play any more, but if I had time, I'd love to go to the nets and practice. Cricket teaches you a whole lot about life, or so I was told when I was six.

The `Dangerfield' television series has been described as `a winning combination of doctors and the police'. Nigel Havers plays the compassionate police-surgeon Dr Jonathan Paige. Fridays at 9.30pm on BBC1