If South Africa were told they would whitewash the no.1 ODI side in the absence of AB De Villiers before the start of the series, they would have had fits of laughter. But over the course of the last few weeks, they have found the right players and right form to knuckle down Australia, with a whitewash looking increasingly likely as the two teams take on each other at Cape Town.
Australia have never lost a five-match series 5-0 before. The last time they lost all the matches played in an ODI series was in 2006-07 when they were beaten 3-0 by New Zealand. The only other time they were blanked 3-0 was by England, in 1997. South Africa did beat Australia 4-1 before, in a series in Australia in 2009, under Johan Botha.
The margins of victory reflect South Africa's dominance. Two of the wins have come with more than 10 overs to spare, another by more than 140 runs. In the only 50 over match that Australia threatened in this series, at Kingsmead, a brilliant knock from the out-of-form David Miller sealed the series.
Before the series got underway, South Africa were desperately searching for personnel to fulfill their quotas as well as bring in balance. When Chris Morris was ruled out of the series, it seemed like a knockout blow for a side already missing their captain. But in Andile Phehlukwayo and Dwaine Pretorius, they found the right all-rounders. In Rossouw and Kyle Abbott, they found the right guys to step in. All has gone well for Faf and his men and a whitewash seems inevitable.
That Australia haven't bowled South Africa out even once in the series underlines the inexperience in their attack. But that doesn't mean that there are no other headaches. Their batting has come a cropper and they have crossed 300 just once and have been bowled out for under 220 twice. Their over-reliance on Warner and Smith has not helped them a bit. But they do have the added motivation of trying to avoid being blanked.
South Africa - Having already secured the series, they would be itching to give a knockout punch to their favourite opposition. They would, however, be worried about over bowling Rabada or furthering the quad injury to their newbie in the Test squad, Tabraiz Shamsi. The young Phehlukwayo should retain his spot in the eleven after impressive performances with bat and ball.
Miller may come back into the side and if he does, it will be at the expense of Behardien, who is nursing a tweaked hamstring. Bavuma could also come into the equation for the first time, after being called in to training. Abbott is likely to retain his spot in the eleven after his stellar outing in the fourth ODI. This means Steyn might sit out yet again. If Shamsi is given time to recover, Tahir may be involved.
Australia - The Aussies will be hell bent on not succumbing to a whitewash. However, with the bowling line-up they possess, they would have to play out of their skins to win. Scott Boland may get a look in ahead of an unimpressive Daniel Worrall. Usman Khawaja, who has been on the sidelines right through the series, may be called up to extend the batting order.
They might look to bring in Mitchell Marsh earlier in the batting order, given his potential to go berserk at any given time. Steve Smith is under severe pressure after his unimaginative captaincy being criticised from all quarters. That Warner led Aussies to a comfortable series win in Lanka will further play on his mind.
South Africa (probable XI): Quinton de Kock (wk), Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis (capt), Rilee Rossouw, JP Duminy, Farhaan Behardien/David Miller, Dwaine Pretorius, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kyle Abbott, Kagiso Rabada, Imran Tahir/Tabraiz Shamsi
Australia (probable XI): David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith (wk), George Bailey, Mitchell Marsh, Travis Head, Mathew Wade (wk), John Hastings, Adam Zampa, Scott Boland, Chris Tremain
Pitch and conditions:
It is rainy in Cape Town since Tuesday, but Newlands has a new drainage system which should keep the outfield dry, should the rain stay away. The groundsman does not guarantee a run-fest and instead mentioned that he is aiming for a surface that will offer the bowlers something as well. The weather is expected to be mild with temperatures in the teens, with a light breeze.