x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Saqib has left a big hole to fill

Saqib's injury, then, has left Khurram, the captain, without his most trusted ally and he will be hoping the likes of Arshad Ali, Bakthiyar Palekar, Amjad or Ramveer Rai will put their hands up.

When the chips have been down, one man has invariably stood up for the UAE. Small of stature, he has stood tall, shepherding the team alongside men with little experience of international cricket or its demands.

On Wednesday, the UAE will be missing his assured presence when they meet Afghanistan in their Intercontinental Cup match at Sharjah Cricket Stadium.

Saqib Ali's hamstring injury has robbed the team of one of their most accomplished and defiant batsmen.

There is never a good time to lose a player of such pedigree, but to do so on the eve of a match against the champions makes it worse. Saqib, 33, had been in prime form and Kabir Khan, the coach, will have a big hole to fill.

In their opening match of the Intercontinental Cup against Kenya, Saqib rescued the UAE second innings with a majestic 153, coming in when the team had lost both the openers with only nine on the board.

The visitors had already conceded the first innings lead and were facing defeat, but Saqib added 190 with Amjad Ali and 141 more with Khurram Khan.

All three batsmen scored centuries as the UAE won by 266 runs.

Saqib's injury, then, has left Khurram, the captain, without his most trusted ally and he will be hoping the likes of Arshad Ali, Bakthiyar Palekar, Amjad or Ramveer Rai will put their hands up.

Khurram, like Saqib, has often won many fights on his own in the past, but against a team like Afghanistan and across four days, he will need all the help he can get.

 

arizvi@thenational.ae