These two virtually identical games between Zimbabwe and Pakistan left a strong impression of what both teams are doing right - and wrong. In both games, Pakistan laboured to 136, and Zimbabwe left themselves with too much to do in the final over, falling 13 and 15 runs short. The bowlers from both sides excelled in their roles, but the top orders have not quite clicked and, with a quick turnaround before the first one-day international, there isn't a lot of time to find a remedy.

"To be honest, we're not very happy with the way we batted in these two games," Pakistan coach Waqar Younis said. "We're definitely capable of batting a lot better than this. Yes of course the bowling unit did cover it up, but not very happy with the batting.

"Twenty20 cricket is fast. You have to really put bat on ball. Even if you lose early wickets you still have to get that momentum going for you. And we didn't do it that well. Maybe in the last game for a little period when Umar Akmal and Shoaib Malik were in, that was the momentum we were looking for. But we didn't get it today. But some of the guys are making a comeback, so we have to understand that. [Mohammad] Hafeez is coming out of a hand injury, Sohaib [Maqsood] is coming back. So I can give that to them, but it's not the standard we're looking for."

The same pitch was used for both games and it hasn't been the easiest track to score boundaries on, but neither of these teams managed to rotate the strike well enough either. Pakistan notched up eight boundaries in the first nine overs, but their run-rate still hovered at a run-a-ball and 50 of the 120 balls they faced were dot balls. Zimbabwe's tally of 51 dots was similar, but 36 of their first 60 were balls that were not scored off. The industrious stand between Sean Williams and Sikandar Raza brought 60 runs, most of them in ones and twos, and got Zimbabwe close but couldn't undo the damage.

"(Dot balls) are a very big problem," Williams said. "We've actually spoken about it as a team. We're looking to knock that on the head totally. We're trying to bring the percentage of that down. We're working on a lot of percentages at the moment and that's on the top of the list, to try and bring that down. Rotate the spinners a lot more.

"You know, boundaries come naturally. You don't have to look for or manufacture a boundary sometimes in a T20, it just comes. If you run five singles and get a boundary it's already nine runs off the over. It could be six and then you've got 11 off the over. That makes up for the overs that haven't gone for as many runs. But running between the wickets was one of the game plans today between Raza and myself."

The failure of the top order hasn't helped Zimbabwe's cause. In the first match the hosts lost two wickets in the opening Powerplay, and in the second T20 they lost three, and a fourth immediately after the Powerplay. A frustrated Williams suggested the lower order were being left with too much to do.

"We're losing too many top batters too soon in the game, which doesn't allow us to have any momentum going towards the end of the game," he said. "It makes it very difficult for a tailender to chase 11 or 12 runs an over. That's a big ask. Whereas if you've got the top order batters there, that total, facing the bowlers when we know what they're going to bowl, realistically is very gettable."

The bowling, at least, kept both coaches happy and Younis singled Imad Wasim out for particular praise for his return of 5 for 25 in two matches. Zimbabwe coach Dav Whatmore was particularly impressed with Luke Jongwe's bowling at the death.

"We're very pleased with young Luke," Whatmore said. "You could see in the first match he was a typical debutant. Very nervous and jumping out of his skin. But I think he's got good potential. We all can see the value if we continue to invest in Luke and develop him, which we'd like to do. He and Tinashe Panyangara, good efforts both games. It certainly wasn't because of them that we were here losing."

Apart from praise for their bowlers, there was something else the two coaches agreed upon: that the pitch used went some way towards leveling the two teams out, and that neither side had any particular advantage.

"I wouldn't agree that the pitch favoured Pakistan," Whatmore said. "We restricted them to 130 twice, which was a good effort."

"This sort of pitch evens out things," Waqar agreed. "Normally Twenty20 cricket you see a pitch where the ball comes onto the bat nicely and nowadays you score big runs in these games. But this was definitely slower and it turned a little bit, and we played two games on the same pitch. We were well prepared for these sorts of conditions, but I think what Zimbabwe tried to do was even things out by preparing a slow pitch, which I guess didn't work for them."

Pakistan's ODI captain Azhar Ali has already arrived in the country, along with a handful of new players, and they trained today in order to acclimatise. Their presence could provide Pakistan with some freshness and a little more stick-ability in the top order, but Zimbabwe don't have the resources for any extensive changes and their path to success isn't nearly as clear.

"The one day games are coming very quick, I tell you," Whatmore said. "The competition is played in the head. It's frustrating, it's disappointing, it's playing in games that you know you should have won. That's frustration. We need to get performances out of individuals, like Craig Ervine did for us against New Zealand. Something like that where others say 'gee, if he can do it I can do it.'"

Liam Brickhill is a freelance journalist based in Cape Town