Proteas: Can they earn a SIXTH five-nil?

JP Duminy (AP)
JP Duminy (AP)

Cape Town – The feat would draw them level with another of cricket’s superpowers, India, and take them further ahead of great rivals Australia and England.

South Africa have an increasingly realistic chance of earning another clean sweep in a five-match ODI series - it would be their sixth in history, and a swelling habit of late - as they brace for the now dead-rubber closing two fixtures against Sri Lanka.

Already 3-0 to the good after convincing wins each time, the Proteas seem to have their hosts’ number in the series, in stark contrast to the earlier Test portion.

It will take a significant turnaround in either Pallekele again on Wednesday (11:00 SA time) or the final encounter in Colombo on Sunday for the broadly dishevelled-looking ‘Lankans to claw back a victory or two.

Both are day/night affairs.

Even if they fiddle significantly with their combination - captain Faf du Plessis’s tour has ended due to a shoulder injury, and some hitherto idle squad members may be blooded anyway – South Africa look in good shape for the possible whitewash.

Most of their batsmen in the all-important top six have at least one beefy score beneath their belts so far, and veteran JP Duminy is in especially consistent form with successive knocks of 53 not out, 32 and 92 in the middle order.

The bowling arsenal has also fired relatively smoothly, and it would be a good mental test of their already young attack if spearhead Kagiso Rabada, for example, were to be rested on Wednesday and Lusaka-born Junior Dala, 28, handed a maiden cap.

Soundbites emanating from the camp do suggest the Proteas intend remaining “switched on” enough to earn the 5-0 outcome.

While 3-0 sweeps are naturally more common in the ODI arena, whitewashing a five-match series is a considerably more impressive achievement, suggesting an especially relentless stranglehold over a long stretch of games from the dominating outfit.

The Proteas, if they can press on to earn that score-line, would be in the prestigious position of boasting a 5-0 result three times within the last two years.

It would follow the October 2016 home series thrashing of the Australians, and the identical outcome not too long afterwards when the same Sri Lankans were last on our shores that summer.

The earlier 5-0 experiences all came against West Indies: away in 2005, home in 2007/08 and away again in 2010.

If they beat Sri Lanka 5-0 in the present series, it would be the first time SA can sport the achievement on the Subcontinent.

They did clean sweep a 2007/08 series in Bangladesh, but it was made up of only three encounters.

The Proteas, as things stand, are just one behind India (six occasions) for 5-0 outcomes in bilateral series.

As for the other “big four” powers in the global game, Australia have earned that score-line four times, and England just twice.

The overall leaders are actually Pakistan, who have recorded as many as seven 5-0 sweeps, although most of them are against less heavyweight countries like Zimbabwe (three times) and Bangladesh (twice).

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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