England all-rounder Ben Stokes has been found not guilty of affray after a fight outside a Bristol nightclub on September 25 last year.
Stokes’ seven-day trial concluded on Tuesday when the verdict was delivered after a two-and-a-half-hour consultation by the jury.
Both the Durham man and Ryan Ali, 28, who was knocked unconscious during the brawl, denied the charge and were ultimately found not guilty. The two are reported to have shaken hands on leaving the dock.
The fight occurred just hours after England had faced the West Indies in an ODI at the County Ground last year.
During the six-day trial at Bristol Crown Court, the altercation was described as “a sustained episode of significant violence” from Stokes who had “lost control”.
Stokes told the jury he had “stepped in” to defend two gay men who were being verbally abused, but then had to defend himself from threats of violence from Ali and Ryan Hale, 27.
However, the Crown claimed CCTV evidence indicated he was mocking the “flamboyant” pair, Kai Barry and William O’Connor. Hale, a fire brigade worker and an Afghanistan war veteran, was acquitted last week.
Gordon Cole QC, representing Stokes, asked jurors to consider the “blows, kicks and/or stamps” carried out by opening batsman Hales as they deliberated over whether Stokes was to blame for Ali’s broken eye socket.
Although Stokes will be relieved by the outcome, both he and England colleague Hales, who was also involved in the fracas, will now face a disciplinary hearing by the ECB’s Cricket Disciplinary Committee (CDC). Hales was never charged.
The CDC will convene within 48 hours. It remains to be seen whether England’s national selectors will re-instate the all-action all-rounder into the squad to face India in the third Test, which starts this Saturday.