Ben Stokes’ Ashes winter appears to be in jeopardy after England suspended him and Alex Hales from all future international matches until further notice.
The pair will not be considered for selection, the England and Wales Cricket Board has announced, after the governing body saw video footage published on The Sun newspaper’s website which allegedly shows Stokes throwing punches in a street fight.
Test vice-captain Stokes, who was selected in England’s Ashes squad on Wednesday, was arrested on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm after disorder in the Clifton Triangle area of Bristol in the early hours of Monday morning.
Stokes was released without charge later that day but has remained under investigation by Avon & Somerset Police ever since – while Hales returned voluntarily to Bristol on Tuesday to provide further evidence about the incident.
In a statement on Thursday afternoon, the ECB said: “Ben Stokes and Alex Hales will not be considered for selection for England international matches until further notice.
“Each remains on full pay pending further ECB investigation and the ongoing police investigation into an incident in Bristol in the early hours of Monday September 25.
“Andrew Strauss, director of England Cricket, will today refer the internal disciplinary procedure for these two players to the Cricket Discipline Commission, chaired by Tim O’Gorman.
“These decisions, fully supported by ECB Chairman Colin Graves, were made following the release of footage viewed by ECB for the first time on Wednesday night.”
Stokes’ status as vice-captain, as well as his Ashes prospects, therefore appears to be under major threat.
— ECB🏏 (@ECB_cricket) September 28, 2017
Three days on from the incident outside a nightclub at 235am, new detail of reported events also emerged courtesy of journalist and TV presenter Piers Morgan.
A celebrity acquaintance of several cricketers, Morgan claimed in a series of Twitter posts that Stokes found trouble when he went to the aid of two gay men who were being subjected to homophobic abuse.
He wrote: “I’m hearing that Ben Stokes intervened to help two gay guys who were being abused by yobs, one of whom was armed with a bottle.
“Stokes has told friends he was incensed by the homophobic taunts, then saw the bottle being raised & decided to defend himself.”
The ECB named Stokes in its Ashes squad 12 hours before the video was posted by The Sun, confirming his availability despite a broken finger on his right hand and that at that point he retained the Test vice-captaincy, chief support to Joe Root.
Strauss also revealed ECB was initiating its own internal disciplinary investigation, not just into Stokes’ and Hales’ behaviour as they celebrated Sunday’s Royal London Series win over West Indies in Bristol but that of several other players who accompanied them for at least part of the evening.
England have already called batsman Dawid Malan into their one-day international squad following Hales’ confirmed absence from the final match of the summer on Friday at the Ageas Bowl, where the hosts will be bidding to complete a 4-0 victory over the Windies.
They may soon have to consider too who can replace Stokes in Root’s much higher-profile squad due to head down under on October 28.
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