CRAIG Phelan has warned Oakmere’s rivals they’re wrong to assume his promoted team will be an easy touch without their overseas star from last season.

The men from Overdale Lane ended a four-year wait to return to Division One after a stunning title success in 2018 that saw them win 16 of their 22 matches.

South African Slade Mitrovich contributed more than 1,000 runs to help them along the way.

However Phelan told the Guardian the batsman had made an already fast-improving side – one that won 10 successive matches midway through the previous campaign – stronger.

“Some people are of the opinion we were a one-man team and that’s unfair,” he said.

“However if they want to think that, then let them.

“The truth is that we’ve got better each year and we believe that we’ve not reached our ceiling yet.”

Three bowlers – Nick Guest, Matty Norton and Matthew Howard – all took more than 40 wickets each in league games last season.

Norton’s involvement this time around will be restricted heavily by work commitments, meaning an increased workload for the promising Joe Roddis.

At the crease, opener Adrian Stubbs passed 400 runs while Phelan and Alex Hodges both went beyond 300.

Oakmere are optimistic teenager Ciaran McDonnell can continue on an upward trajectory while another South African, Matthew De Villiers, arrives from Cape Town club Claremont.

Phelan said: “The younger lads are another year older and have benefitted massively from the environment they played in last season.

“They’re physically stronger too – there are more muscles to find a boundary and that makes a big difference.

“It’s a huge blow not to have Matty [Norton] as much as we’d like and like every side that comes up our priority is to survive.

“However we feel more than optimistic we can compete.”

He agreed that Oakmere should be encouraged by Kingsley’s fifth-place finish on their first season in the top-flight last time around.

Meanwhile Barnton ranked fourth in 2016 when they stepped up.

Phelan added: “I think, like us, that those teams were battle-hardened because the second division is so difficult to get out of.

“We’ll need to adjust, and the lads know they’ll have to work harder for every run and wicket, but we’re hungry and willing to find that bit extra.”