Josh Shaw returned his best figures of the season as Gloucestershire gained the upper hand by bowling Middlesex out on the opening day of their County Championship clash in Northwood.

The 23-year-old paceman finished with 4-33 as the home side were dismissed for just 172 at Merchant Taylors’ School, with former Middlesex all-rounder Ryan Higgins taking 3-52.

However, Toby Roland-Jones brought the hosts back into contention with a fiery spell in the evening session, picking up both wickets to leave Gloucestershire 59-2 at the close.

It was the first time Roland-Jones had captured more than one wicket in a County Championship innings since the first of the two major back injuries that put the brakes on his career in September 2017.

With cloud cover and an outfield moistened by overnight rain, it was unsurprising that Gloucestershire captain Chris Dent spurned the opportunity of a coin toss.

After a 15-minute delay while the surface continued to dry out, the home side made steady progress, passing 50 for only the loss of Stevie Eskinazi (9), leg before to Chadd Sayers (2-34).

Initially, it was the outfield that appeared to cause the most problems for Middlesex, with Sam Robson sauntering down the pitch after hitting what looked a certain boundary – then belatedly running a quick two when the ball stuck in the grass.

Even after Sam Robson (23) nibbled at a widish delivery from Shaw and was caught behind, Nick Gubbins (26) and Dawid Malan (28) saw their side through to lunch without any further alarms.

Malan settled down to play his shots, the pick of them a crisp cover drive off Shaw, but he then attempted to pull him through the leg side and sent a top edge ballooning into the hands of mid-on.

Four balls later, Shaw moved one away from Gubbins to take the edge – and the tone of the innings shifted as wickets began to tumble.

Higgins inflicted some serious damage on his former county, having Robbie White (9) caught behind and pinning Tom Helm (4) leg before wicket before Nathan Sowter (3) played on.

John Simpson (27) gave Higgins the charge, pulling him for four and then lifting two fuller-length deliveries over the top with the same outcome.

But Simpson’s miscued shot off Shaw brought the Middlesex innings to a close, with the bowler racing towards square leg to take a skier and register his fourth wicket.

That left Gloucestershire to negotiate 19 overs and Dent (27 not out) and Miles Hammond made a solid start by scoring 31 from the first eight.

Dent then cut Roland-Jones’ first ball to the boundary – but the third left Hammond (21) and took the edge for Malan to scoop up the chance at second slip.

James Bracey lasted just four deliveries and failed to score as he fell to Roland-Jones in similar fashion, with Eskinazi taking the catch this time.