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Stokes pleads not guilty to affray
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Stokes pleads not guilty to affray

Ben Stokes arrives at court to answer a charge of affray © Getty Images

Ben Stokes is to join up with England in New Zealand in the coming days after he pleaded not guilty to a charge of affray over an incident outside a Bristol nightclub in September. His case was referred to Bristol Crown Court, with a first hearing set for March 12.

Although Stokes will not currently be considered for the T20 triangular series involving New Zealand and Australia, he is set to depart the UK on Wednesday. The ECB released a statement saying that he would link up with the team in Hamilton, where England play New Zealand on Sunday.

“Having entered his plea at Bristol Magistrates’ Court today, Ben Stokes will now travel to New Zealand to join the England squad,” an ECB spokesperson said. “He departs tomorrow, Wednesday 14 February, and will arrive on Friday 16 February, ready to train with England team-mates in Hamilton.

“Any decision to include him in upcoming matches will be made by Head Coach Trevor Bayliss and the England management team.He is not currently being considered for the ongoing International T20 Tri-Series.

“ECB fully respects his right to defend himself in court and any obligations he has within the legal process will always take precedence over England commitments. It has been confirmed that he will not be required to return to the UK for the first hearing at Bristol Crown Court on Monday 12 March.”

As a result, Stokes will be free to resume his playing career – both with England and in the IPL – in the coming weeks.

Stokes arrived at the Magistrates’ Court in the city shortly before 10am, to be met by a scrum of cameras and reporters. He spoke in court to confirm his name and address. Two other men charged with the same offence, Ryan Hale and Ryan Ali, also entered not-guilty pleas.

The case was referred up to Crown Court, with a trial set for next month. Stokes’ not-guilty plea was entered on the basis of self-defence and he was granted unconditional bail.

Stokes has been cleared to represent England in the meantime but a comeback in New Zealand has already been deferred once. He was named in England’s squads for the one-day series and Test series with New Zealand which start on February 25.

Stokes was charged with affray last month, having played no part in England’s Ashes tour of Australia while police investigated the Bristol incident. He was arrested in the early hours of September 26 on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm; his England team-mate Alex Hales was also present and is likely to be called as a witness as the trial.

After the announcement by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), Stokes tweeted his intention to defend himself: “I am keen to have an opportunity to clear my name but, on advice, the appropriate time to do this is when the case comes to trial. The CPS’ decision to charge me, as well as Ryan Ali and Ryan Hale, at least means that my account of what happened that night can come out in court and be made public.”

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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