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 , while Hales returned voluntarily to Bristol on Tuesday to provide evidence.
Should 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 28 October.
In a statement, 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.
“Andrew Strauss, director of England Cricket, will today refer the internal disciplinary procedure for these two players to the Cricket Discipline Commission. 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 could be as much as 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 that the ECB was initiating its own investigation, not just into Stokes’ and Hales’ behaviour as they celebrated Sunday’s win over West Indies in the third Royal London Series one-day international, but that of other players who accompanied them for at least part of the evening.
Also yesterday, The Express newspaper’s website published footage allegedly showing Stokes mocking Katie Price’s disabled son Harvey.
England have already called batsman Dawid Malan into their one-day international squad following Hales’ confirmed absence from the final match of the summer today at the Ageas Bowl, where they will be bidding to complete a 4-0 victory.
It will fall largely to coach Trevor Bayliss to ensure England set aside ongoing distractions which, the Australian admits, are substantial.
Eight years ago, Bayliss was caught up in the deadly terror attack on the team bus in Lahore while he was coach of Sri Lanka, and, asked how tough he would describe the challenge of the past few days, the 54-year-old said: “It’s probably in the top two [in my cricket career], I would have thought.
“It’s very difficult for everyone involved. It’s something that obviously we didn’t want to go through, and hope we don’t go through again.”