England end winless streak as Sri Lanka are spun out in first Test

Joe Root jumps for joy after England secured victory in Galle. (AFP)
Updated 09 November 2018
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England end winless streak as Sri Lanka are spun out in first Test

GALEL, SRI LANKA: Sri Lanka captain Dinesh Chandimal paid tribute to an “outstanding” England after Moeen Ali spun the visitors to a commanding first Test victory in Galle.
Set a mammoth 462 to win, sustained pressure from Moeen, fellow spinner Jack Leach and aggressive seam bowling from Ben Stokes bundled out the hosts for 250 on day four.
The 211-run victory, England’s first Test win away from home in 13 matches, leaves Joe Root’s men 1-0 up in the three-match series, with the second Test starting in Kandy next Wednesday.
“We played some really good stuff,” Root said. “We can go to Kandy with huge amounts of confidence and look to still improve and get better.”
England had secured a first-innings lead of 139 thanks to a century on debut by Ben Foakes — man of the match — and a formidable spin attack led by Ali and assisted ably by Leach and Adil Rashid restricting Sri Lanka to 203 in reply.
In England’s second innings an assured unbeaten 146 by Keaton Jennings, his first century since a ton on his 2016 debut that has silenced his critics for now at least, allowed Root to declare at 322 for six.
“Our batting was below-par during the game, you can’t stay in the game (with this kind of batting),” said Chandimal.
“Credit goes to England, they played some outstanding cricket. We had a really good start in the first session but we couldn’t capitalize on it,” he said.
Root, who only managed 35 and three with the bat himself, said he was “very proud” of his team, paying tribute to his “excellent” bowling unit and to some “crucial knocks” by England’s batsmen.
“We’ve done our homework and made sure we came here knowing how we were going to try and approach things,” Root said.
“It’s been a fantastic start of things and we’ve got to build on it and make sure we don’t just rest on our laurels now. We will work very hard now before that second Test match and hopefully back up a really good performance.”
Fifteen without loss overnight, Sri Lanka’s openers Kaushal Silva and Dimuth Karunaratne withstood the pressure from England’s formidable bowling attack for the first hour on Friday.
But both fell after attacking shots, with Kaushal leg before trying to sweep Leach for 30 and Karunaratne caught and bowled by Ali — who took four wickets in both innings — for 26 as he skipped down the pitch for an attempted heave.
Dhananjaya de Silva, after a confident start, was caught at first slip by Root off Stokes in the last over before lunch for 21. The ball earlier he was given out but reprieved on review.
After the break Kusal Mendis hit Leach for four over his head but attempting a repeat the next ball skied the ball to Ali, departing for an otherwise impressive 46.
Chandimal, suffering from a groin injury that kept him off the pitch all of Thursday, was skittled by Leach for 11. Niroshan Dikwella fell the first ball after tea, caught adroitly by Stokes one-handed at slip off Ali for 16.
Soon afterwards Angelo Mathews — dropped on 18 by James Anderson — went for 53, caught by Jos Buttler at midwicket with Ali again the wicket-taker. He was followed into the pavilion by Akila Dananjaya for eight.
Last out was silver fox Rangana Herath, cricket’s most successful left-arm spinner, run out for five in his swansong before retirement.
Chandika Hathurusingha, Sri Lanka’s coach, said his side were playing catch-up since lunch on day one when England turned the match around having been five down for 103.
“After that, the way they batted, they took the game away from us. From there on we were chasing the game. In Test cricket, especially on wickets like these, it is very difficult to come back,” he said.
“They outplayed us in all three departments of the game.”


Jaka Ihbeisheh’s heartwarming journey from Slovenia to Palestine — via football

Updated 18 November 2018
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Jaka Ihbeisheh’s heartwarming journey from Slovenia to Palestine — via football

LONDON: Jaka Ihbeisheh’s eyes glisten as he recalls the moment his father first watched him play for Palestine. While the midfielder’s path to the national team may have been unconventional, those feelings of pride on his debut were wholly natural. From western Yugoslavia to the West Bank, Ihbeisheh’s journey was fueled by a desire to rediscover his roots.
Ihbeisheh was born in Ljubljana in 1986 to a Slovenian mother and a Palestinian father, who met while the latter was studying medicine in Croatia. His parents separated when he was seven years old, however, and his father moved back to Palestine.
It would be 18 years before he saw his father again.
An early love of football developed into a career for Ihbeisheh, who played for a number of Slovenian clubs. But while he lived out his childhood dream professionally, in his personal life there remained a nagging question about the whereabouts of his father.


In 2013, Ihbeisheh finally decided to try to reach out to the man from whom he had been estranged for three quarters of his life.
“After getting married, I started to question more where I was from and what my father had been doing,” Ihbeisheh explained. “We still had an envelope at home with an address on it so I decided to write a letter to him asking him if he wanted to meet me.
“I wrote three letters — in Slovenian, Croatian and English — and to be honest I had no idea if I would receive a reply.”
A month passed by with no response but then one day Ihbeisheh opened his Facebook account to see a friend request from someone whose name was written in Arabic.
“It was a strange moment after all those years but the date of birth matched my father’s so I knew it was him. We started to talk on Skype first, in Croatian. I was amazed he could remember but he said that because he studied medicine in the language he had never forgotten it. He still used Croatian medical textbooks.

 

Jaka Ihbeisheh in action for Slovenian side Rudar Velenje. (Photo / Twitter: @ihbeisheh)


“After a few calls, my wife and I decided the time was right to go and visit him in Palestine. A lot of people said things like, ‘Don’t go there you are crazy, you will get shot’ — but my father lived there and I wanted to go and visit him. I was not afraid.”
That first trip was fraught with nervous excitement as Ihbeisheh made his way to his father’s homeland via his aunt’s house in Jordan. The midfielder had read and heard about the potential difficulties of the crossing into Palestine and his own passage was not straightforward.
“The security at the border was very heavy and when they asked me where I was going, I said Palestine. He said, ‘No, to Israel’ and I said, ‘No, Palestine’. Then he separated me and my wife and a soldier came and took me into a room to ask a lot of questions.
“They asked about my life, my father, my work, my wife. They went on Wikipedia to check if I really was a Slovenian professional footballer. Then they called my wife inside — they were checking our stories matched. They asked my wife the name of my coach and fortunately she knew it. We were there for five hours in all.”
For Ihbeisheh it was glimpse into the border woes that are a regular part of life for Palestinians, though happier experiences were to come.


“When we got off the bus, my father and all his family were there waiting and it was very emotional. Of course, we had a big meal to celebrate.
“After that trip, I knew that if the opportunity came up I would want to play international football for Palestine. My father didn’t need to say anything for me to know how much it would mean to him.”
When Ihbeisheh returned to Slovenia, the thought of playing for Palestine was still on his mind but he had no idea how to put the wheels in motion. Then a fortuitous meeting with a Palestinian diplomat’s son opened the door. Six months later, Ihbeisheh received a text inviting him to be involved with the squad for the first time.
“My first game was a friendly in Dubai ahead of the 2015 Asian Cup and it was an amazing day. When the national anthem played, I was so proud. You meet the other players and hear their stories, then you understand why it means so much to represent Palestine.
“Since then I have come to play every time they call me. I love being part of this team.”

 

Jaka Ihbeisheh meeting hero Xavi, and on the sidelines of a Rudar Velenje game. (Photo / Twitter: @ihbeisheh)


Ihbeisheh went on to make a major impact at the Asian Cup in Australia, becoming the first Palestinian player to score at a major international tournament in a 5-1 defeat to Jordan.


But while that was a moment to savour, it paled in comparison to the first game he played in Palestine.
“It is a totally different occasion playing in Palestine. Everyone is supporting their country and they make incredible noise, they want to take pictures with us. We feel like heroes. It’s a shame that our home games are often moved away from our land and our people — I hope this stops.
“My first game there was a 0-0 draw with UAE in (the West Bank town) Al-Ram and of course it was the first time my father saw me play in Palestine. This was an emotional moment for him and for me. He said, ‘I was really proud to see you play but I am proud even when you are not playing. You are always representing your country.’
“The more I am called up to play for Palestine, the more I see him so, for us, football has an important meaning.”
That sentiment is true for many in Palestine, for whom football offers a temporary escape from difficult lives. Palestine may often appear to be a byword for conflict but Ihbeisheh has found the opposite to be true, the country uniting him with both his father and his heritage.
“I feel really sad about some of the things I hear, some of the experience my friends and family have. It is difficult to imagine for people like me who have always lived in Europe. You just hear the things on TV or radio but it is not the same as when my teammates tell me their stories.
“What each of them has gone through, and achieved, to play football for Palestine is inspirational. They know how football can help to give the supporters something, for a little bit of time they forget about all the worries. This is important to them, and me.
“I may not come from Palestine but when we are together as team-mates, there is no difference if you have lived your whole life in Palestine or outside of Palestine. We are all the same, we are family.”