Ben Stokes’ court date clashes with England Twenty20 comeback match
The England all-rounder Ben Stokes is due to appear in court on an affray chargeon the same day he was supposed to be making his international comeback in a Twenty20 tri-series match in New Zealand.
Avon and Somerset police confirmed on Thursday that Stokes is due at Bristol magistrates’ court on 13 February to face the charge, brought following an incident outside a nightclub in the city in September.
Stokes, who missed the Ashes after being suspended from playing for England, is accused of affray alongside two other men. The 26-year-old has been absent from the international setup since the incident but, after his charge for affray was announced on Monday, the England and Wales Cricket Board decided he would once again be available for selection.
Stokes will be unable to push this court date back. But, once a trial date is set, a request can be put in to delay proceedings. That will need to include supporting evidence from the ECB. A decision is then made at the magistrate’s discretion. Stokes has reiterated that he wants the opportunity to clear his name. He will not be able to offer a plea in absentia and, according to a CPS spokesperson, must attend court on the date and issue a plea.
Speaking on Thursday before the court date was announced the England head coach, Trevor Bayliss, was pragmatic when asked about any potential clash that might arise. “We’ll have to be flexible when that comes along,” Bayliss said. “He has the right to put his side of the story and defend himself.”
It was hoped that Stokes would prepare for the Twenty20 games with a stint of domestic cricket in New Zealand. But it is understood that Canterbury, who Stokes represented for a month during his suspension, have not had contact with the player or his representatives. His last competitive game for them was against Central Districts on 22 December, though he has been taking part in Durham’s pre‑season programme.
During his Canterbury stint Stokes scored only 36 runs and took one wicket in three 50-over matches, and 133 runs and two wickets in three T20 matches. The club’s chief executive, Jez Curwin, said the all-rounder would be welcomed back. “We had that conversation that if the opportunity arises for him to come back we’d love it to happen and he’s always welcome,” Curwin said in December. “He’s bearing that in mind as well.”
England lost the Ashes 4-0 while Stokes watched from afar and are seeking revenge in the one-day series but Bayliss does not expect any awkwardness when the 26-year-old eventually returns. “We’re happy that he has been made available. All the coaching staff and players are looking forward to seeing him.”
That sentiment was echoed by Jos Buttler, vice-captain of the limited‑overs side: “We look forward to welcoming him back. He is a huge part of our side on the field and off it. Everyone is excited to get him back among the group.”+
Bayliss warned, though, that Stokes was not guaranteed to regain a starting place when he returned. “It’ll be a difficult decision. Is he up to speed and will he be right, in a good enough space from a playing point of view to make it back into the team? Having not played for so long it might be very difficult.”
Meanwhile Stokes is one of four players – with David Warner, Virat Kohli and Quinton de Kock – to be named in the International Cricket Council’s Test and one-day teams of the year. Anya Shrubsole, part of England’s victorious Women’s World Cup squad, was awarded the ICC’s spirit of cricket award for consoling South African players after she hit the winning runs in England’s semi-final victory.