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England’s Ben Stokes pleads not guilty to affray via video link

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

London: England all-rounder Ben Stokes pleaded not guilty via video link to a charge of affray over a nightclub incident that forced him out of the Ashes tour.

The powerful all-rounder, currently with the England squad in New Zealand, looks set to miss the second Test against India at Lord's, with his trial set for August 6.

Stokes and two other men pleaded not guilty to the charge during a 15-minute hearing at Bristol Crown Court, in the southwest of England.

Stokes, 26, wearing a grey shirt, said "hi judge" when he was introduced to Judge Peter Blair via the video link. The two other defendants, Ryan Ali, 28, and Ryan Hale, 26, appeared in person at the court.

Judge Blair set a date of August 6 for the trial, which is expected to last between five and seven days. The second Test against India starts on August 9.
"You must be here without fail for that trial," the judge told Stokes, Ali and Hale. "You will remain on bail as before."

Stokes missed the Ashes tour after being suspended from playing for England. Without him, the tourists lost to Australia 4-0.

England declared Stokes available again after he pleaded not guilty at Bristol Magistrates Court last month and he flew to New Zealand to join the squad after the court hearing.

Stokes, Ali and Hale are jointly charged with affray in Bristol on September 25 last year - several hours after England had played a one-day international against the West Indies.

It is alleged a 27-year-old man suffered a fractured eye socket in the incident, at which fellow England cricketer Alex Hales was also present. Hales faced no charges.

The charge states that their "conduct was such as would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for his personal safety".

Stokes featured in all five of England's one-day internationals in New Zealand, with the tourists winning the series 3-2.

England now have a two-Test series against New Zealand, which starts on March 22.

Stokes is due to play in the Indian Premier League after being sold for USD 1.9 million to the Rajasthan Royals.

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