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Ashes 2017: Ruthless Australia’s clinical excellence setting the template of series sweep

Each team has its own mantra they like to follow to ensure success. Australia is no different, and as England discovered, hard work, desire and dedication are simply not adequate to conquer the conditions.

For 15 days, England tried their level best to compete, but had to endure another Ashes humiliation Down Under.

Australian players celebrate the dismissal of England’s Craig Overton (R) in Perth on Sunday. AFP

Australia is extremely difficult to topple in their backyard. The only team to achieve the feat in the last five years have been South Africa. To defeat a team in a Test match, one needs to take 20 wickets, and as statistics prove, capturing 20 Australian wickets has become a major obstacle for visiting teams.

It is a trend that continued during the Ashes with the England bowlers only managing to bowl Australia out on one instance. On the contrary, the Australian attack compromising of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and Nathan Lyon have had no trouble is dismissing the England side in six out of six innings.

Three Tests on and England have discovered that to win in Australia, you need to score big totals and have bowlers capable of bowling in excess of 140kmph on a constant basis.

Pitches in Australia have become as benign as ever and unless a bowling unit has speed through the air, it is almost impossible to penetrate through an Australian batting line-up that is well adapted to playing on the flat tracks dished out for the Test matches.

One might argue if the tracks are placid, then it also gives an opportunity to the visiting teams to score ample runs. That fact is true, but against one of the most potent bowling unit that Australian has unearthed, it is difficult to convert 350-400 scores into the imposing 500 or 600.

The reason it is difficult to post those enormous totals is because tailenders or lower-order batsmen of the visiting teams simply cannot stand the bouncer barrage of the Australian attack. Not once in the series have the last five English batsmen managed to add more than 100. In Brisbane, it was 5-53 and 5-40, in Adelaide 5-95 and 5-56, and then in Perth, 5-31 and 5-46.

Ever since Australia lost the 2013 Ashes in England, coaching staff, led by Darren Lehmann, made a conscious decision to attack the opposition lower-order with short balls, and it has been an immense success. The tactic works well especially on the hard Australian pitches and with a bowling unit capable of sending down thunderbolts in excess of 90mph.

Wrapping up the tail has become such a crucial part of the game and no other team does it as well as Australia. Facing short-pitch bowling is not easy and Australia have worked that to their advantage.

The benign pitches in Australia have also benefited their batsmen greatly. Apart from Smith, who has scored runs in all sorts of conditions, the likes of David Warner and Usman Khawaja have cherished milking pedestrian opposition bowling units incapable of touching speeds that are threatening on placid tracks.

Australia now have a script that they follow to perfection. It involves good batting pitches, bouncing the lower-order and delivering thunderbolts from an awkward height. Add to it, the rapid rise of Nathan Lyon and it is a bowling attack that resembles the golden generation of Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne, Jason Gillespie and Brett Lee.

Before the Ashes began, England were aware that they needed to post big totals and as their coach Trevor Bayliss famously said, “We cannot be satisfied with 60s and 70s – we need 60’s and 70’s”. Unfortunately, England has only had two centuries compared to four by Australia. Steve Smith converted his century into a double ton while the likes of James Vince and Mark Stoneman failed to convert to starts into a ‘daddy hundred’.

Two men capable of scoring those big hundreds, Joe Root and Alistair Cook, have been worked out. Cook’s reflexes have slowed and the burden of captaincy seems to have got the better of Root. Credit to Australia, they have ensured both Cook and Root have been deprived of opportunities by some immaculate bowling and perfect strategies.

To be successful in Australia, either you need to be blessed with three fast bowlers that are tall, capable of hitting the deck hard and a batting unit that are not satisfied with hundreds or hope you are miraculously greeted with a green seaming track. England came with none of those traits and paid heavily.

No wonder there is frustration in the England camp. They knew the Australian script to the fine print, but were not able to unravel it. James Anderson and Stuart Broad, with over 900 Test wickets between them, were out-bowled by three men that are yet to play 100 Test matches between them. Smith proved why he is couple of steps ahead of Root and when it came to the holding role of a spinner, Moeen Ali was not even in the competition against Lyon.

Unless England are able to overcome Australia in the three ingredients that they base their success upon, there is a fair chance another whitewash is on the cards.

Published Date: Dec 19, 2017 | Updated Date: Dec 19, 2017

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A simple solution to end the encryption debate

Criminals and terrorists, like millions of others, rely on smartphone encryption to protect the information on their mobile devices. But unlike most of us, the data on their phones could endanger lives and pose a great threat to national security.

The challenge for law enforcement, and for us as a society, is how to reconcile the advantages of gaining access to the plans of dangerous individuals with the cost of opening a door to the lives of everyone else. It is the modern manifestation of the age-old conflict between privacy versus security, playing out in our pockets and palms.

One-size-fits all technological solutions, like a manufacturer-built universal backdoor tool for smartphones, likely create more dangers than they prevent. While no solution will be perfect, the best ways to square data access with security concerns require a more nuanced approach that rely on non-technological procedures.

The FBI has increasingly pressed the case that criminals and terrorists use smartphone security measures to avoid detection and investigation, arguing for a technological, cryptographic solution to stop these bad actors from “going dark.” In fact, there are recent reports that the Executive Branch is engaged in discussions to compel manufacturers to build technological tools so law enforcement can read otherwise-encrypted data on smartphones.

But the FBI is also tasked with protecting our nation against cyber threats. Encryption has a critical role in protecting our digital systems against compromises by hackers and thieves. And of course, a centralized data access tool would be a prime target for hackers and criminals. As recent events prove – from the 2016 elections to the recent ransomware attack against government computers in Atlanta – the problem will likely only become worse. Anything that weakens our cyber defenses will only make it more challenging for authorities to balance these “dual mandates” of cybersecurity and law enforcement access.

There is also the problem of internal threats: when they have access to customer data, service providers themselves can misuse or sell it without permission. Once someone’s data is out of their control, they have very limited means to protect it against exploitation. The current, growing scandal around the data harvesting practices on social networking platforms illustrates this risk. Indeed, our company Symphony Communications, a strongly encrypted messaging platform, was formed in the wake of a data misuse scandal by a service provider in the financial services sector.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

So how do we help law enforcement without making data privacy even thornier than it already is? A potential solution is through a non-technological method, sensitive to the needs of all parties involved, that can sometimes solve the tension between government access and data protection while preventing abuse by service providers.

Agreements between some of our clients and the New York State Department of Financial Services (“NYSDFS”), proved popular enough that FBI Director Wray recently pointed to them as a model of “responsible encryption” that solves the problem of “going dark” without compromising robust encryption critical to our nation’s business infrastructure.

The solution requires storage of encryption keys — the codes needed to decrypt data — with third party custodians. Those custodians would not keep these client’s encryption keys. Rather, they give the access tool to clients, and then clients can choose how to use it and to whom they wish to give access. A core component of strong digital security is that a service provider should not have access to client’s unencrypted data nor control over a client’s encryption keys.

The distinction is crucial. This solution is not technological, like backdoor access built by manufacturers or service providers, but a human solution built around customer control.  Such arrangements provide robust protection from criminals hacking the service, but they also prevent customer data harvesting by service providers.

Where clients choose their own custodians, they may subject those custodians to their own, rigorous security requirements. The clients can even split their encryption keys into multiple pieces distributed over different third parties, so that no one custodian can access a client’s data without the cooperation of the others.

This solution protects against hacking and espionage while safeguarding against the misuse of customer content by the service provider. But it is not a model that supports service provider or manufacturer built back doors; our approach keeps the encryption key control in clients’ hands, not ours or the government’s.

A custodial mechanism that utilizes customer-selected third parties is not the answer to every part of the cybersecurity and privacy dilemma. Indeed, it is hard to imagine that this dilemma will submit to a single solution, especially a purely technological one. Our experience shows that reasonable, effective solutions can exist. Technological features are core to such solutions, but just as critical are non-technological considerations. Advancing purely technical answers – no matter how inventive – without working through the checks, balances and risks of implementation would be a mistake.

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