England cricketer Ben Stokes, 27, has been found not guilty of affray following a brawl with two nightclub revellers.
The 27-year-old all-rounder punched Ryan Hale, 27, to the ground and then knocked out Ryan Ali, 28, during the fracas in the early hours of September 25 last year in Bristol city centre.
Stokes said he was acting in self-defence, or in the defence of others, when he punched the two best friends hours after England played the West Indies in a one-day international in the city.
The jury at Bristol Crown Court took under three hours to acquit Stokes and co-accused Ali of affray following a seven day trial.
At the start of the trial the Crown tried to amend the indictment and charge Stokes with two counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm but this was rejected by the judge.
And half way through the trial Stokes’s legal team attempted to have the case against him dropped but this was also refused by the judge.
Stokes missed the second Test against India at Lords and was not included in the squad for the third Test, beginning on Saturday at Trent Bridge, because of the on-going court proceedings.
The court heard how the night began with Stokes and other England players, including James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Liam Plunkett, Jake Ball and Alex Hales, taking taxis into Bristol city centre.
Stokes had had “at least 10 drinks” in the hours before the incident.
Meanwhile Ali had drunk six or seven drinks during his night out with Mr Hale.
Much of the incident and the build-up was captured on CCTV cameras located around the Clifton Triangle area – a popular nightspot in Bristol.
Mbargo doorman Andrew Cunningham, 37, alleged he was offered £300 by Stokes to let him and Mr Hales back into the nightclub.
He said Stokes was mimicking the mannerisms and voices of William O’Connor and Kai Barry, outside the club but the cricketer insisted they were exchanging “banter” about his expensive white leather shoes.
The two cricketers left Mbargo when the violence erupted shortly after 2.30am in Queen’s Road.
Both Stokes and Ali claim they were acting in self-defence and blamed each other for being the aggressor.
Ali told jurors the England cricketer “was very angry and looking for someone to pick on” and said that deciding to use a bottle as a weapon would be a “difficult decision for me to take”.
“I would have to perceive a significant threat to do that. I can hear myself saying ‘Move away’,” he said.
CCTV footage shows Ali waving a bottle towards Mr Hales before delivering a glancing blow to the shoulder of Mr Barry.
“As soon as I see Mr Ali swing the bottle and physically hit them that’s when I took the decision to get involved,” Stokes said.
“I was trying to stop Mr Ali doing damage to anybody with a glass bottle.”
Stokes and Ali tussled and fell to the floor and when the sportsman got back to his feet Mr Hale was stood in front of him.
“I felt under threat by these two and felt I had to do whatever it was to keep myself and others around me safe,” Stokes said.
Mr Hales tries to grab Stokes, repeatedly begging his teammate to stop, telling him “Stokes, Stokes, that’s enough”.
When asked if he had become “enraged” at any point during the incident, Stokes replied that it was a “difficult question to answer”.
The 6ft 2in cricketer added: “I didn’t know they could be carrying more weapons on them.
“They could decide to attack me at any time if I was to turn my back on either of these two. At all times I felt under threat from these two.”
Mr Hales, who was interviewed under caution but never arrested in relation to the incident, was seen on the CCTV stamping and kicking Ali in the head as he lay on the floor.
Witnesses described seeing a group of men acting like “football hooligans” and dialled 999.
Ali, an emergency services worker, suffered a fractured eye socket while Mr Hale, a former soldier, was left with concussion.
Stokes, of Stockton Road, Castle Eden, Durham, and Ali, of Forest Road, Bristol, each denied a charge of affray. Mr Hale was found not guilty last week of affray by the jury on direction of the judge.
Historically, the ground’s pitch is conducive to seam and swing and is a venue in which England always enjoy playing at.
And given the hosts are 2-0 up going into the match, Joe Root and his men will be confident about sealing the series against a below-par India.
But, has Trent Bridge been a graveyard for visiting teams down the years, or is that just a myth? We’ve taken a closer look at the stats.
A bit of a history lesson
The famous old ground has been an icon for England for well over a century, given the venue hosted its first Test match between England and Australia in 1899.
Overall, 62 Tests have been played at Trent Bridge – the eighth most out of any ground in history, with 61 involving England. Way back in 1912, a one-off clash was held between Australia and South Africa.
But of the 61 in which England have played, they have won 22 times and lost on 17 occasions, with the other matches ending in draws (22).
Although the history books suggest England’s overall record isn’t as dominant as many assume, their recent return has been excellent. Which is why touring teams probably enter the match with some deal of trepidation.
Arguably, Stuart Broad’s famous 8-15 in the resounding innings and 78-run win over Australia in the 2015 Ashes Test is the most notable, with the ball doing all sorts off the track against high-class batsmen including Steve Smith and Michael Clarke.
Since 2000, 16 Test matches have been contested at Trent Bridge and England have won nine of them – including five consecutive triumphs in 2008 (New Zealand), 2010 (Pakistan), 2011 (India), 2012 (West Indies) and their 2013 Ashes success.
In this same time frame, three matches were drawn and England suffered four defeats – with the most recent of those coming last year, against South Africa, by a huge 340-run margin.
And then back in 2014, England and India began their five-match Test series, which ended in a 3-1 win for the hosts, with a draw.
The Men in Blue have lost twice in the five Test matches in which they have participated in at Trent Bridge.
England and India first met in a Test in 1959, with the hosts winning by an innings and 59 runs.
And then in 1996, it was a draw between the two nations. The three-match series saw Test debuts for both Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid.
The home side ended up winning 1-0 and six years later Trent Bridge saw another draw between the two sides, with the four-match duel finishing 1-1.
It was in 2007 though where India’s greatest triumph came. The tourists overcame England by seven wickets in the Trent Bridge Test and went on to win the series 1-0. Zaheer Khan was the star of the show then, claiming nine wickets in Nottingham.
England did get some revenge in 2011, winning at the Bridge by 319 runs and clinching the series 4-0 in the process, which is remembered for Kevin Pietersen’s 533-run haul and 25 wickets for Broad.
As mentioned, the most recent contest in 2014 ended in a stalemate meaning England have two wins and India have a solitary success at Trent Bridge, with two draws from the five meetings.
That record will certainly encourage India but Virat Kohli’s men will have in the back of their minds that England seem to have a habit of turning it on at Trent Bridge when the conditions work in their favour.
Bayliss never expected his players to be distracted by their team-mate’s ongoing court case, and so it proved as they went 2-0 up on the tourists with a commanding innings victory in the second Test.
It took the selectors less than 24 hours to confirm an unchanged 13-man squad, again missing Stokes, whose affray case clashed with the Lord’s Test but is set to be concluded before England head to Nottingham on Thursday to prepare for the third match of five.
Asked if he was ever concerned events elsewhere might put England off, Bayliss said: “The results speak for themselves.
“The guys are able to put anything off field out of their mind and concentrate on what they’re doing, and this was the perfect example.”
An England and Wales Cricket Board statement left open the possibility that Stokes may not yet be entirely out of contention for Trent Bridge.
It read: “The ECB will make an assessment of Ben Stokes’ availability after the trial in Bristol has concluded.”
Speaking before that Monday afternoon update, Bayliss said: “Obviously that will be something that comes up in the next couple of days. We will make a decision when we know what happens.”
England have been reassured, in Stokes’ absence, by the man-of-the-match performance of his replacement Chris Woakes, who returned from injury at Lord’s to hit a maiden Test century and also finish with four wickets.
Equally impressive was the evergreen brilliance of England’s all-time leading wicket-taker James Anderson.
The 36-year-old continues to defy the advance of age and, after his match haul of nine for 43 at Lord’s, becoming the first bowler ever to take 100 Test wickets there, Bayliss voiced his belief that Anderson will be adding many more to his record-breaking career aggregate of 553 victims.
Asked how long Anderson may go on, he said: “I don’t think there’s any age – he keeps surprising everyone. As long as he keeps his body fit there’s no reason why he can’t go on for three or four years.
“A lot of other bowlers do start to drop off mid-30s or so. It’s only the very, very best that are able to keep it going. I think he’s showing that he is the very, very best.”
Anderson, who has an even better record at Trent Bridge, made the most of cloud cover and a green pitch.
Bayliss added: “He’s not just good when the conditions suit him, but in these conditions he’s the best in the world. It’s a test for any batsman in the world to try to face him in these conditions.”