SKIPPER Martin Miller declared himself “extremely pleased” with Bournemouth’s recruitment ahead of a Southern Premier League campaign in uncharted territory.

Champions in 2010 and runners-up in 2011, Bournemouth will be looking to bounce back at the first attempt after suffering relegation from the top flight last season.

The Lions, who have enjoyed morale-boosting warm-up wins against Totton & Eling and South Wilts, open their Division One fixtures with a visit from Hambledon on May 3.

Marquee overseas signing Brad Schmulian, a 23-year-old South African, has been joined at Chapel Gate by no fewer than six other new arrivals, with three from the Dorset League.

Schmulian, a right-handed batsman and leg break bowler, plays for Auckland Aces in Australia and is a former team-mate of Dave Kidner, who has returned to Bournemouth from Lymington.

Ex-Dorset all-rounder Kidner played alongside Schmulian for Darwin and will help fill the void created by the departures to Lymington of talented trio Ben Rogers, Dom Hand and Ryan Scott.

Bournemouth’s ranks have also been boosted by the acquisitions of Ben Bridgen, Andy Hayward and Mike Kitson from Wimborne together with Jean-Pierre (JP) Cronje, who played last season for Twickenham in the Middlesex League.

Kitson’s whirlwind 137 helped the Lions record an emphatic victory over reigning champions South Wilts on Saturday, while Bridgen top scored with 87 as they brushed aside Totton & Eling in their first friendly.

However, with Bournemouth facing several new clubs in Division One, including much-fancied Basingstoke & North Hants, captain Miller is predicting a fiercely-competitive season.

He told the Daily Echo: “All the guys who have come in are very capable of playing at this level. I played against some of them when I was in the Dorset League and they will fill the gaps created by the guys who have moved on.

“A year on, we are probably in a healthier position squad-wise. We have brought in seven players and lost three and the majority of them are all-rounders.

“This season is going to be a big unknown and it remains to be seen how we are going to fare against teams we haven’t played competitively for a number of years.

“The word on the street is that Division One might be more competitive than the Premier Division. Players like Glyn Treagus and Dave Taylor have joined Andover and some of the other clubs have recruited very good overseas players. We are also stronger and Basingstoke, who were promoted, are expected to win it. It is going to be very interesting and difficult to call.”