Having pleaded not guilty to a charge of affray in a magistrates’ court in Bristol on Tuesday (February 13), Ben Stokes will leave England on Wednesday to join the national team currently doing battle in a tri-series in New Zealand.
The England and Wales Cricket Board said in a statement that Stokes would arrive in New Zealand on February 16 and train with his England teammates in Hamilton. It added that he was currently ‘not being considered’ for the ongoing T20 tri-series.
“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.
“Any decision to include him in upcoming matches will be made by head coach Trevor Bayliss and the England management team.
“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,” the statement added, in response to Stokes’s plea earlier in the day.
While the Magistrates’ Court fixed the date for the first hearing on March 12, Stokes will not be needed on that day, the ECB added. “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.”
At the conclusion of the tri-series – Australia are already through to the February 21 final, and New Zealand and England are battling for the second spot – England will face New Zealand in five One-Day Internationals starting on February 25, followed by two Tests, the first of them in Auckland from March 22.
Stokes had been accused of his involvement in an altercation outside a nightclub that cost him his place on the Ashes tour.
Stokes, 26, missed the trip to Australia after being suspended from playing for England. He appeared at a magistrates’ court in the southwestern city of Bristol along with Ryan Ali and Ryan Hale.
It follows the altercation during the early hours of September 25 last year, several hours after England had played a One-Day International against Windies in the city.
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.
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.
Stokes 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.
All three defendants elected to be tried by a jury at a crown court.
“I have decided that your trial will take place at the crown court at Bristol. The first hearing date will be March 12,” said Simon Cooper, the District Judge. “You will be on bail.”
Without Stokes, England lost the Ashes to Australia 4-0. While England were in Australia, Stokes played a few games for Canterbury Kings during a month-long spell in New Zealand before returning home to England.