x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Saqib Ali at his peak for UAE ahead of Holland test

All-rounder benefits from new fitness regime as coach Aaqib Javed prepares side for Intercontinental Cup match.

UAE's Saqib Ali acknowledges his teammates after reaching his century against Kenya at Nairobi - Courtesy Mohammed Lokhandwala
UAE's Saqib Ali acknowledges his teammates after reaching his century against Kenya at Nairobi - Courtesy Mohammed Lokhandwala

ABU DHABI // Saqib Ali will be in peak form and fitness when the UAE head to Holland next month for their first Intercontinental Cup match under their new coach.

The UAE all-rounder smacked back-to-back centuries, including one in Friday's final, to guide New Medical Centre to the Al Hamad Contracting Division One title at Zayed Cricket Stadium.

He also registered three half centuries in four games for his team to win the UBL Twenty20 Cup.

His vein of form could be attributed to the fitness regime being implemented by Aaqib Javed, the new UAE coach, who has made the physical condition of the players his main priority since replacing Kabir Khan earlier this year.

Ahead of the four-day game with the Dutch in Deventer, the UAE squad have been preparing by training alternate days at the ICC Global Cricket Academy (GCA) in Dubai over the past month.

"We are preparing as we have done never before ahead of a tour," Saqib said. "Aaqib has maintained his own fitness and joins us in the running and physical training, so there is absolutely no room for anybody to hide from his eyes.

"I have worked under several coaches. All of them work with the same intensity and applications, but if one has to keep his place in the team the player should keep himself in good shape. There is no substitute for hard work and, more importantly, the performance next to the name."

The UAE are fourth in the eight-team league, played over a two-year period and designed to prepare Associate nations for Test cricket one day.

Building on a draw with Afghanistan and a victory over Kenya, ahead of a third-round loss to Scotland, the UAE play Holland in a four-day game July 16-19, followed by two 50-over-a-side games in the ICC World Cricket League Championship, on July 21 and 23.

"I would like to think all this hard work will be rewarded by way of good results against Holland," Saqib said.

Aaqib has exposed his players to the English-type pitches at the GCA to prepare them for the greener European wickets. Saqib is flourishing on the dryer, flatter pitches in the UAE.

"I always want to score runs, take wickets and field well whether I am playing for my employer or the UAE," Saqib said.

"I hope I can take this momentum forward when we travel to Holland, which remains unknown territory for me.

apassela@thenational.ae

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