Stokes to join Eng in NZ after court hearing

Ben Stokes

GETTYBen Stokes appeared at Bristol Magistrates Court on Tuesday

Ben Stokes has pleaded non guilty against his affray charges on him following an incident in Bristol last September.

In a statement, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) confirmed Stokes would fly to New Zealand immediately, arriving in Auckland on Friday, and would not be required to return to England for the opening day of the trial.

Without him, England lost the Ashes to Australia 4-0 although they bounced back to win an ODI series. His absence from the England squad during the Ashes series and the ongoing T20I tri-series against New Zealand and Australia has hurt the side.

They are jointly charged with affray in the Clifton Triangle area of Bristol on September 25 a year ago - several hours after England had played a one-day worldwide against the West Indies.

While speaking to Sky Sports, England coach Trevor Bayliss revealed that Stokes might not play the first ODI as he has not played cricket for a while and it is necessary for him to spend some time on ground.

He hasn't played an worldwide since September 24 when he scored 72 against West Indies in Bristol, then a few hours later was involved in a fight outside a nightclub in which a 27-year-old man allegedly suffered a fractured eye socket.

Stokes, wearing a blue suit, sat one seat apart from fellow defendants Ryan Ali, 28, and Ryan Hale, 26, in Bristol Magistrates' Court and spoke only to confirm his name, date of birth, address, nationality and to enter his plea.

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Reacting to the government's move, a JuD spokesman said the action is an attempt to "appease the U.S and India". This decision was taken in the backdrop of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) meeting in Paris.

Yet the European Central Bank statement emphasised any obligations he has within the legal process "will always take precedence" over his England commitments.

The 26-year-old England all-rounder is accused of affray alongside two other men.

A 27-year-old man allegedly suffered a fractured eye socket in the incident near Mbargo nightclub.

The charge states that their "conduct was such as would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for his personal safety".

The England cricketer has appeared in court for the first time since being charged after an alleged fight in Bristol. The charge of affray carries a maximum penalty of up to three years in prison.

All three defendants have been granted unconditional bail pending their trial.

He is also expected to play in the IPL, which begins in early April, after being bought for GBP1.37m by Rajasthan Royals in last month's auction.

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