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India vs England: Ben Stokes Added to England Squad for Third Test After Being Found Not Guilty in Affray Trial

AFP | Updated: August 15, 2018, 9:14 AM IST
India vs England: Ben Stokes Added to England Squad for Third Test After Being Found Not Guilty in Affray Trial

Ben Stokes celebrates taking the wicket of India's Virat Kohli on the fourth day of the first Test between England and India at Edgbaston. (AFP)

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Ben Stokes is in line to play in the third Test against India after being recalled to the squad following his acquittal on a charge of affray on Tuesday.

The 27-year-old New Zealand-born all-rounder, who took six wickets in the first Test victory over India but missed the second Test due to the trial, was found not guilty by a unanimous decision by the jury in Bristol after less than three hours of deliberations.

"Ben Stokes will now join the England squad for the third Test against India, which starts at Trent Bridge on Saturday," read the statement from the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).

However, Stokes and team-mate Alex Hales -- who was with him when the brawl took place outside the club in Bristol, southwest England, on September 25 last year but was not charged -- could still face bans.

"Now that the legal proceedings have concluded, the disciplinary process for Ben Stokes and Alex Hales can be scheduled by the Cricket Discipline Commission (CDC)," the ECB added in their statement.

"Considerable detail has been heard in this week-long court case and, in due course, there will be a range of matters for the Board to fully consider."

Stokes Gets Unanimous Not Guilty Verdict

Stokes was found not guilty of affray in a unanimous decision by a jury in less than three hours of deliberations on Tuesday following a trial at Bristol Crown Court.

The 27-year-old -- whose co-defendant Ryan Ali was also found unanimously not guilty -- had been charged following a brawl hours after England played the West Indies in a one-day international in Bristol, southwest England, in September last year.

His wife, Clare, cried when the not guilty verdicts were returned while Stokes closed his eyes with relief and then looked up.

Stokes shook hands with Ali on leaving the dock at the end of the trial that lasted seven days.

Whilst Stokes -- whose travails are not over as he faces a disciplinary hearing by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) -- stayed inside a smiling Ali restricted himself to telling the BBC he was "relieved it was all over".

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.

The jury had also been warned twice by Peter Blair about press coverage and social media on the latter occasion instructing them to avoid looking at commentary of the case after Stokes's lawyer raised the issue.

One Twitter user created a poll asking whether Stokes should play cricket for England again if he was convicted but escaped a prison sentence.

'Memory blackout'

New Zealand-born Stokes said in his testimony last Friday he had a "significant memory blackout" but he was "absolutely not" an angry man who had lost all control.

Stokes -- who was with England team-mate Alex Hales -- said he intervened because 28-year-old Ali and his friend Ryan Hale -- who had been acquitted earlier in the trial -- had directed alleged homophobic abuse at gay men William O'Connor and Kai Barry as they walked away from Mbargo nightclub.

Hales, who was interviewed under caution but never arrested in relation to the incident, was seen on the CCTV stamping and kicking Ali in the head as he lay on the floor.

Neither O'Connor nor Barry gave evidence but the judge said imaginations should not run riot as to why that had been the case.

"It is for the prosecution & defence as to what evidence is presented to the jury," said Blair.

"There is no place for guessing or speculating."

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 is an emergency services worker, had drunk six or seven Jack Daniels and Cokes during his night out with former soldier Hale.

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."
First Published: August 15, 2018, 8:39 AM IST
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