Ben Stokes has been made available for England selection, following a meeting of the ECB Board, despite being charged with affray on Monday in relation to the incident outside a Bristol nightclub on September 25.
Stokes, who was charged along with two other men, is due to appear at Bristol Magistrates Court to at a date still to be confirmed. He had been withdrawn from England duty after the incident in September, which followed an ODI against West Indies in the city, and missed the end of that series plus the recent Ashes and the five-match ODI series in Australia.
However, he has now been cleared to return to action for the T20 Tri-Series against Australia and New Zealand that gets underway in February.
“Following a full Board discussion, in which all considerations were taken into account, the ECB Board has agreed that Ben Stokes should now be considered for England selection,” read an ECB statement.
“Given the CPS decision to charge him and two others with affray, confirmation of his intention to contest the charge and the potential length of time to trial, the Board agreed that it would not be fair, reasonable or proportionate for Ben Stokes to remain unavailable for a further indeterminate period.
“To date, Stokes has been unavailable for selection throughout the Police and CPS process around the incident in Bristol in September, a period which has included One-Day Internationals against West Indies, the Ashes tour and the start of the ODI series against Australia.
“ECB fully respects the legal process and the player’s intention to defend himself against the charge.
“England Selectors, management and players have been informed and Ben Stokes is expected to join the squad in New Zealand for February’s T20 matches.
“ECB confirmed in December that the independent Cricket Discipline Commission [CDC] would stay the internal disciplinary process for both Alex Hales and Ben Stokes until the conclusion of court proceedings relating to the incident.”
Shortly after the charge was confirmed, Stokes issued a statement saying he was keen for the opportunity to clear his name but wanted to focus on cricket.
“I want to thank all those who have continued to support me in relation to the Bristol incident, not least my family, friends, fans and teammates,” Stokes said. “I gave a full and detailed account of my actions to the police on day one – the same day as the incident – and have cooperated at each step of the police inquiry.
“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. Until then, my focus is very much on cricket.”
The incident occurred outside the Mbargo nightclub in the Clifton area of Bristol in the early hours of the morning after England’s one-day international against West Indies on September 24, and resulted in one of those involved suffering a broken eye socket.
As well as Stokes’ short-term England position, there is also the impact on his potential IPL involvement. He is expected to be highly sought-after in the auction at the end of the month, although franchise owners have told ESPNcricinfo that they need some clarity on his situation following the laying of charges.
More to follow.