London, Feb 13 (AFP) England all-rounder Ben Stokes, accused of involvement in an altercation outside a nightclub that cost him his place on the Ashes tour, pleaded not guilty to a charge of affray in court today.

The 26-year-old, who missed the trip to Australia after being suspended from playing for England, 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 the West Indies 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 District Judge Simon Cooper. “You will be on bail.” Without Stokes, England lost the Ashes to Australia 4-0.

England. (AFP) AH

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.