Ben Stokes will fly to New Zealand on Wednesday to join up with the England squad ahead of their Twenty20 match against the Kiwis after pleading not guilty to a charge of affray at Bristol Magistrates’ Court.
The 26-year-old cricketer appeared on Tuesday morning to answer the charge, alongside Ryan Ali, 28, and Ryan Hale, 26, who also both pleaded not guilty.
A first hearing has been scheduled for 12 March at Bristol Crown Court, but it has been confirmed that Stokes will not be required to attend, and his inclusion in the England squad for the One Day International series with New Zealand means that he could make his return to action in the upcoming 50 over matches that begin on 25 February and end on 3 April, though he will not be considered for the ongoing Twenty20 Tri-Series that also includes Australia.
“Having entered his plea at Bristol Magistrates Court today, Ben Stokes will now travel to New Zealand to join the England squad,” said an ECB spokesperson.
“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.”
It was confirmed at his Tuesday hearing that he will face a crown court trial over an altercation outside a nightclub in Bristol last September.
The Durham match-winner and England’s Test vice-captain – who was suspended from playing in the Ashes while he waited to hear if he would be charged – is accused of affray along with two other men.
It follows the altercation in the Clifton Triangle area of Bristol during the early hours of 25 September last year – several hours after England had played a one-day international against West Indies in the city.
It is alleged a 27-year-old man suffered a fractured eye socket in the incident, at which Stokes’ England team-mate Alex Hales was also present.
Ali, Stokes and Hale spoke to confirm their names, dates of births, addresses and nationalities.
The clerk read out the charges, and all three defendants indicated not guilty pleas.
The full charge sheet shows that Stokes, of Castle Eden, Durham, is accused of affray on September 25 at Queens Road in Bristol.
He is accused jointly with Ali and Hale of using or threatening unlawful violence towards another.
The charge states that his “conduct was such as would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for his personal safety”.
The other two defendants face the same charge.
Affray is an either-way offence, meaning it can be tried at the magistrates court or the crown court. But all three defendants elected to be tried by a jury at the crown court.
District Judge Simon Cooper told the three defendants: “I have decided that your trial will take place at the crown court at Bristol. The first hearing date will be 12 March. You will be on bail.”
Additional reporting by PA