He was born to Lithuanian-Jewish parents who emigrated to South Africa and got his nickname "Ali" at the age of seven from Ali Baba. Ali married Shira Teeger, and they have two daughters and one son. His nephew Adam Bacher played for South Africa in the 1990s.
Ali started playing cricket while at school and represented Transvaal at the age of 17. He played in 12 Tests for South Africa, three against England and nine against Australia; he was captain in the last four. In a first-class match for Transvaal against the visiting Australian cricket team in 1966/67, he made a high score of 235 in the second innings. He captained the national team in only one series: in 1969/70 against Australia at home in which the South Africans won all the Tests in the four match series.
He was awarded South Africa's Sports Merit Award (its top athletics honor) in 1972.