The serene Gangothri Glades ground, circled by a hill, a lake and trees that swung in the breeze, contrasted with the heat generated by the Karnataka pacemen in the middle.
In a splendid advertisement for domestic cricket, the ball seamed and bounced on a surface with grass on the first day of the Ranji Trophy final here on Monday.
Survival called for footwork and judgment, enhancing the quality of the runs scored. This was no moribund track of the kind that has haunted Indian cricket for long.
Under the circumstances, Mumbai wicket-keeper-batsman Vinayak Samant's feisty 67 (157b, 8x4) rallying with the lower order oozed character.
For most part, Karnataka's pace bowling – the team's strength – was in the forefront. The experienced R. Vinay Kumar scalped four, three of them in his first burst. And the strapping Abhimanyu Mithun, who impressed with his yorkers, picked up three wickets. The Karnataka catching lifted its bowling.
Mumbai, after Wasim Jaffer elected to bat, was dismissed for 233 in its first innings. Surviving the early blitz from the pacemen and then consolidating as the pitch settled was Jaffer's stratagem.
The ploy came unstuck because of two reasons – the Karnataka pacemen zeroed in on the right areas and the track, even in the final session, continued to be lively.
When Karnataka batted late in the day, paceman Dhaval Kurkarni squared up and consumed Robin Uthappa with a ball that lifted and seamed away.
The host was 15 for one at stumps. The second day could prove pivotal to the contest.
Earlier, the under-rated Vinay Kumar made optimum use of the new ball and the moisture on the wicket. Hitting the straps, he got the ball to seam away or jag back from a good length around the off-stump. He sliced through the top-order.
Sahil Kukreja was prised out by a delivery leaving him from a length. Jaffer has a tendency to work the ball off his hips and Vinay Kumar did not miss a trick. He dug one in short and the Mumbai captain was smartly held by G. Satish at short-leg. The in-form Ajinkya Rahane, pressing forward, nicked a delivery that darted away. Mumbai was reeling at 20 for three in the fifth over.
Mithun's carry off the pitch had the cordon applauding. There is a fluency in his run-up that is hard to miss and his wrist position is good. Mithun preferred control over speed and mixed his length capably in his later spells.
Omkar Khanvilkar, beaten for pace by a full length ball from Mithun, saw his stumps rearranged. The left-handed Abhisek Nayar – he drove fluently through the off-side field – was done in by a Mithun yorker.
And the paceman sent back the hard-hitting Ramesh Powar with a short-of-a-length delivery. The batsman slashed and K.B. Pawan held a terrific catch at gully. Later, Mithun left the field in some discomfort but the Karnataka camp said the paceman's fitness concern was no more than a bout of cramps.
The day was not without a touch of controversy. Ajit Agargar played Vinay Kumar to Sunil Joshi at mid-off. The fielder swiftly relayed the ball to 'keeper C.M. Gautam who threw down the stumps with the batsman out of the crease. Given out after the verdict was referred, Agarkar seemed unhappy.
Samant, edging, driving on the up, cutting and pulling, fought hard with the tail after Mumbai was 143 for seven. There was useful support for him from a free-stroking Iqbal Abdulla (30) and a determined Dhawal Kulkarni (20).
Abdulla was snared by a lifting delivery outside off-stump by Vinay Kumar – Amit Verma nailed a high catch at first slip. Kulkarni, deceived in flight, spooned one back to Joshi. And Samant was brilliantly pouched by Manish Pandey at deep point off left-arm seamer S. Aravind. A zestful paceman with a quick-arm action, Aravind had been luckless earlier.