Ben Stokes’ fading Ashes prospects may hinge on the next stage of police investigations after England suspended him and Alex Hales from all future international matches until further notice.
The pair will not be considered for selection, the England and Wales Cricket Board announced after seeing video footage published on The Sun newspaper’s website which allegedly shows Stokes throwing punches in a street fight.
Test vice-captain Stokes, selected in England’s Ashes squad on Wednesday, was arrested on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm after disorder in the Clifton Triangle area of Bristol in the early hours Monday.
He was released without charge later that day but has remained under investigation by Avon & Somerset Police ever since – while Hales returned voluntarily to Bristol on Tuesday to provide evidence about the incident.
Should anticipated further interviews result in Stokes being charged, it is hard to see how England could take him on a tour – as vice-captain or not – which starts on October 28.
In a statement on Thursday, the ECB said: “Ben Stokes and Alex Hales will not be considered for selection for England international matches until further notice. Each remains on full pay pending further ECB investigation and the ongoing police investigation into an incident in Bristol in the early hours of Monday September 25.
“Andrew Strauss, director of England Cricket, will today refer the internal disciplinary procedure for these two players to the Cricket Discipline Commission, chaired by Tim O’Gorman. These decisions, fully supported by ECB Chairman Colin Graves, were made following the release of footage viewed by ECB for the first time on Wednesday night.”
The timescale of a CDC investigation depends on its subject matter, but there is precedent for resolution to require several weeks.
Three days on from the incident outside a nightclub at 2.35am, new detail of reported events also emerged courtesy of journalist and TV presenter Piers Morgan.
A celebrity acquaintance of several cricketers, Morgan claimed in a series of Twitter posts that Stokes found trouble when he went to the aid of two gay men who were being subjected to homophobic abuse.
The ECB named Stokes in their Ashes squad 12 hours before the video was posted by The Sun, confirming his availability despite a broken finger on his right hand.
Strauss also revealed then ECB was initiating its own investigation, not just into Stokes’ and Hales’ behaviour as they celebrated Sunday’s Royal London Series win over West Indies but that of other players who accompanied them for at least part of the evening.
Also on Thursday, the Express newspaper’s website published footage allegedly showing Stokes mocking Katie Price’s disabled son Harvey. Stokes and Price’s representatives were contacted for comment by the Press Association.
England have already called batsman Dawid Malan into their one-day international squad following Hales’ confirmed absence from the final match of the summer on Friday at the Ageas Bowl, where they will be bidding to complete a 4-0 victory.