A big relief for England cricket as all-rounder Ben Stokes has been cleared of affray charges after a fight outside a Bristol nightclub in September last year. The jury members at Bristol crown court acquitted Stokes after he gave evidence saying he had acted in self-defence. Also Read - Cricket: Rajasthan Royals' All-Rounder Ben Stokes Rules Out Playing In Rescheduled IPL 2021, Provides Injury Update
As per the reports, both Stokes and co-accused Ryan Ali, shook hands with the prosecutor and lead police investigator as they left the court on Tuesday. Stokes was charged with affray in an alleged incident in which a man suffered a broken eye socket. Also Read - Rassie van der Dussen Replaces Ben Stokes, Joins Rajasthan Royals in IPL 2021: Report
The 27-year-old — whose co-defendant Ali was also found not guilty — had been charged following a brawl hours after England played the West Indies in a one-day international in Bristol, southwest England. Also Read - IPL 2021: Rajasthan Royals Set to Name Rassie Van der Dussen as Ben Stokes' Replacement - Reports
Stokes had maintained that he had stepped in to defend two men, whom he claimed were the target of homophobic abuse by Ali and Hale, a claim that was denied. Stokes alleged Ali, who was holding a bottle, had replied: “Shut the fuck up or I’ll bottle you.”
The cricketer told the jury: “All my actions were in self-defence and fearing for my safety.”
At the start of the trial the prosecution 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 went out celebrating after beating the West Indies in a match in Bristol on September 24.
Stokes said he would have had a bottle of beer after the match, two or three pints at the hotel, five or six vodka and lemonades and then “potentially had some Jagerbombs” in Mbargo.
Ali who was knocked unconscious and suffered a fractured eye socket said in his evidence he remained in the care of a surgeon and still suffered from double vision.
He said his memory of the night was “incomplete” due to his head injury.
Ali recalled walking along the street with Hale, Barry and O’Connor, “having a laugh and some banter and the next thing I remember is having a tall blond man charging towards me”.
“I just didn’t want any trouble so I was backing away, trying to retreat.” Stokes’s career has been on hold during the trial — meaning he missed England’s second Test victory over India at Lord’s — and he was omitted from the squad for the third Test which gets underway next Saturday.
However, the Durham-born cricketer had not been picked in the 13-member England squad for the third Test against India at Trent Bridge, Nottingham.
With verdict going in his favour, we could see Stokes back in action for the last two Test matches against India at The Rose Bowl (August 30) and The Oval (September 7).
Stokes played a key role in England’s 31-run victory in the series opener at Birmingham, taking four wickets in the second innings including that of India skipper Virat Kohli.
(With Agency Inputs)