Ben Stokes to join England after pleading not guilty

Ben Stokes

GETTYBen Stokes appeared at Bristol Magistrates Court on Tuesday

Stokes indicated a plead of not guilty to a charge of affray at Bristol magistrates' court on Tuesday and will join his England team mates this week in Hamilton ahead of their five-match series starting February 25.

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.

Although Stokes will not now be considered for the T20 triangular series involving New Zealand and Australia, he is set to depart the United Kingdom on Wednesday.

Having played no part in the Ashes, Stokes has now been cleared to represent England but a comeback in New Zealand during the tri-series was deferred by his need to appear at the Magistrates' Court.

However, England coach Trevor Bayliss is in no mood to rush the all-rounder's return to the team's playing XI.

The 26-year-old offered a not guilty plea to the charge against him, relating to an incident outside a nightclub in Bristol in September last year.

"(The) ECB fully respects his right to defend himself in court and any obligations he has within the legal process will always take precedence over England commitments", added the statement.

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Tuesday's court appearance came on the day England played New Zealand in a T20 match in Wellington, their first game in a tri-series also involving Australia.

It is a triable either-way offence, which means it can be heard in either the magistrates' court or the Crown Court.

The three men spoke to confirm their names, addresses and nationality. It is alleged that a 27-year-old man suffered a fractured eye socket in the incident, at which fellow England player Alex Hales was also present.

Mr Stokes, who missed after being suspended from England duties, is accused jointly with two others.

Ali and Hale also pleaded not guilty to the charge of affray relating to an altercation that took place outside a Bristol nightclub in September a year ago.

To present his stance, the cricketer reached the south-western city of Bristol along with Ryan Ali and Ryan Hale and the three refused of indulgence in any unlawful violence. The charge of affray carries a maximum penalty of up to three years in prison. "You will be on bail".

Stokes was sold for £1.4m ($2m) to Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League (IPL) auction in January.

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