SOMERSET captain Tom Abell said his team "never lost faith" as they pulled off an unlikely turnaround to get their season got off to a flying start, with a thrilling four-wicket victory over Middlesex in the LV= Insurance County Championship, writes Sam Dalling.

For much of this enthralling Lord’s contest, played in bitterly cold April conditions, Abell’s side were second favourites, and even at lunchtime on the final day momentum appeared to be with the hosts.

At that point the skipper had fallen for a well-made 84 and, although George Bartlett was ticking along nicely, 98 runs were still required.

Enter stage left Lewis Gregory, whose breezy unbeaten 61 relieved all tension, his unbroken seventh-wicket partnership with Bartlett (76*) seeing Somerset comfortably over the line.

Day one had belonged to Sam Robson. The former England opener stroked Craig Overton’s first ball of the campaign crisply to the boundary and by the time he departed he had 165 to his name.

A pair of regulation shelled slip catches before Robson had passed 50 proved costly, with Middlesex eventually dismissed for 313.

Gregory was the standout bowler with 5-68.

Somerset’s reply was catastrophic, seam sorcery from master and apprentice duo Tim Murtagh (4-46) and Ethan Bamber (3-24) leaving the visitors reeling at 89-9.

An 83-run last-wicket stand between debutant Marchant de Lange (51) and Jack Leach (28*) restored some respectability, but with the deficit 141 runs few outside the away dressing room would have fancied Somerset's chances.

The visitors desperately needed early wickets and, as he did so often last summer, a fired-up Overton duly delivered - Max Holden (1) and first-innings nemesis Robson (13) dismissed cheaply.

But Nick Gubbins (37) and captain Stevie Eskinazi set about their work carefully, and at 113-3 an insurmountable chase seemed likely.

The introduction of Leach served as catalyst for an implosion, however, with the final seven Middlesex wickets falling for just 30 runs.

England’s premier spinner got the party started by removing Robbie White (2), while Overton took a superb one-handed catch at second slip off Josh Davey to see off the dangerous Eskinazi for 53.

Leach finished with 3-13, while there were also a trio of wickets apiece for Davey (3-16) and Overton (3-26).

Even so, a 285-run victory target looked daunting, and when Tom Lammonby fell before the scorers had been troubled, Middlesex sniffed fear.

But this Somerset side is made of stern stuff and, little by little, they chipped away at the required runs, and by mid-afternoon on Sunday had claimed a first red-ball victory at this venue since 2013.

Abell said afterwards: "The first two days we didn’t perform at all well and we were way behind the eight-ball.

"It was always going to be tricky chasing just shy of 300 in the last innings, but we were only thinking positively.

"The belief in the side is huge and we never lost faith in the dressing room.

"We just felt that, if we could establish those partnerships, we had what it took to chase it down.

"I’m so pleased for George [Bartlett] - what an innings that was to see us home - and the way Lewis [Gregory] played at the end was magnificent.

"That does a huge amount for us as a side, having come from so far behind in the game."

Having come into the season with an eight-point penalty, Somerset sit third in the Group 2 table with 11 points, behind Hampshire (24) and Gloucestershire (22).

Next up for Somerset is a home match with West Country rivals Gloucestershire, starting on Thursday (April 15, 11am).