James Anderson and Ashley Giles arrive in Windhoek © Getty Images
The phoney war is almost over. After months - although it seems like years - of discussion and debate, England's cricketers have finally embarked on the first leg of their three-month African safari. The players have arrived in Namibia, where the chairman of the national cricket association, Francois Erasmus, hailed their arrival as one of the biggest days in the country's sporting history.

"This is a big day for Namibian cricket," he said. "In fact, it's right at the top of the list other than playing in the 2003 World Cup. We've hosted Bangladesh twice, once when they were already a Test nation, but nothing as big as this. We have good players but players like Michael Vaughan and Darren Gough can promote the game here better than our players can."

The first leg of England's tour (Namibia) and the last (South Africa) should be straightforward, off the field at least. But it was the Zimbabwe leg of the tour which attracted the lion's share of the interest when Michael Vaughan and David Morgan, the ECB's chairman, faced the media at Heathrow Airport.

Comments attributed to Vaughan in recent days have indicated that there are many places he would prefer to be going than Zimbabwe, and there was a certain resignation when the inevitable questions came up. "I'll be honest, I'm not looking forward to the Zimbabwe leg," he admitted. "We do have a worry about what has gone on in Zimbabwe but our team has said it is safe for us to go.

"The focus is already away from cricket," he continued. "Any cricket tour you go on when you get more questions about non-cricketing issues, and the cricket is the second most important thing, is very disappointing." Vaughan's public face was very much in line with ECB thinking - not condoning what is happening in the country but maintaining that there was an obligation to play there.



David Morgan: will accompany the side © Getty Images
Duncan Fletcher, England's Zimbabwean-born coach, confessed he too had mixed feelings. He warned, however, that the five one-day matches should not be taken too lightly. "What I have learned is that you cannot say there are easy games in international cricket. There are five games to be won and that is what we are preparing to do."

Morgan looked weary, with criticism over the weekend by Darren Gough and Graham Thorpe still making the headlines. He insisted that there would be no official functions, adding that he would seek advice from the Foreign Office should the team be faced with any senior politicians during the trip.

Asked why he and other officials from the ECB would be accompanying the side, Morgan said that it was "entirely appropriate we give this added support on what clearly is an unusual tour".