England vice-captain Ben Stokes’ Ashes tour in fresh doubt after publication of ‘street brawl’ video
The 26-year-old was released without charge but could face a renewed investigation
England star Ben Stokes’ place in the squad for the Ashes tour of Australia appeared to be in renewed doubt after The Sun newspaper published video footage purporting to show him engaged in a street brawl.
Test vice-captain Stokes was included in England’s 16-man squad for the Ashes tour announced earlier Wednesday despite damaging his hand in the incident that led to his arrest in Bristol on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm.
The 26-year-old was released without charge on Monday, but remains under investigation.
In The Sun video, with photos splashed on the front page under the headline ‘Hit for Six’, Stokes appears to be fighting with two men.
The man said to be Stokes falls to the pavement, while later one of the people he appears to strike falls to the ground.
“We have seen this footage for the first time tonight – when posted by The Sun,” said the England and Wales Cricket Board.
“There is an ongoing police investigation, which will look at all available evidence, and we do have to respect that process.”
Stokes was included in England’s Ashes squad announced earlier Wednesday despite breaking his hand in the incident that led to his arrest.
He was omitted from England’s fourth one-day international series-clinching win against West Indies at The Oval – the venue for the Ashes announcement – after being arrested in the early hours of Monday morning.
That followed England’s win in the third ODI in southwest city Bristol on Sunday.
For the time being, he has retained his position of vice-captain to test skipper Joe Root, ECB cricket director Andrew Strauss told an Oval news conference.
The injury to Stokes’ right hand is believed to have been sustained during a confrontation that left a man in hospital.
England ODI regular Alex Hales – an Ashes long-shot who did not make the test squad – was also left out of Wednesday’s match after being with Stokes on Sunday night.
The pair could be among several England players who face ECB action, with Strauss saying: “They may be subject to disciplinary proceedings, including Ben. As it currently stands, he is vice-captain pending any disciplinary action.”
On Tuesday, Avon and Somerset police, the force that arrested Stokes, said they had been called to a disorder in the Clifton district of Bristol at around 2.35am (GMT) on Monday.
England coach Trevor Bayliss replied “definitely not” when asked by Sky Sports on Wednesday if he was happy with players staying out until the early hours during a series.
“The other night a few guys being out was very unprofessional in the middle of a series,” the Australian added.
Both Bayliss and Strauss are wary of imposing curfews, with the ex-England skipper saying: “It is my view, and I think one shared by Trevor, that the right way to operate a team environment is by treating people like adults and by giving people personal responsibility off the pitch.
“It is important players understand and recognise their responsibilities as international cricketers and what potential damage can be done to both the England team and the sport if we are not seen to be good role models for the game.”
Stokes, potentially just one on-field offence away from a test ban under the International Cricket Council’s code of conduct, is seen as vital to England’s chances of retaining the Ashes in Australia.
Former England batsman Kevin Pietersen, responding to The Sun story and suggesting it could lead to the dynamic batsman and pace bowler’s exclusion, tweeted: “Oh No! Just seen tomorrow’s front page&video! Cancel England’s flights please!”