LONDON: England cricketer Ben Stokes is available for selection for the tour of New Zealand after he was charged with affray, says the England and Wales Cricket Board.
The 26-year-old was charged on Monday after a fight outside a Bristol nightclub in September and will appear before magistrates.
All-rounder Stokes, who has not played for England since the incident, will join the squad for the second half of a triangular Twenty20 series in New Zealand in February.
England then play five one-day internationals and two Tests. Stokes intends to contest the affray charge.
The ECB said that, “given the potential length of the trial”, it would not be “fair, reasonable or proportionate for Ben Stokes to remain unavailable for a further indeterminate period”.
Stokes missed two one-day internationals against West Indies in England last summer and the entire winter Ashes Test series in Australia. He will play no part in the current one-day series against Australia.
However, the ECB allowed him to play six matches for Canterbury Kings in New Zealand domestic cricket in December.
An ECB statement read: “ECB fully respects the legal process and the player’s intention to defend himself against the charge.
“England selectors, management and players have been informed and Ben Stokes is expected to join the squad in New Zealand for February’s T20 matches.”
Alex Hales, 28, who was with Stokes at the time of the incident, was not arrested but was interviewed under caution by police. He was told in December that he would face no criminal charges.
Two other men – Ryan Ali, 28, and Ryan Hale, 26 – were also charged with affray this week.
No firm date has been set for Stokes to return but, subject to any further legal developments and he’s yet to make his first court appearance to face a charge of affray, he’ll face New Zealand in February’s T20 series prior to the two Tests in March. Clearly the legal process will take its course and it remains a possibility that Stokes will have to leave the tour if necessary.