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Ben Stokes to link up with England squad after entering not guilty plea

England are playing Tests and one-day internationals in New Zealand.

Ben Stokes will fly out to join England’s tour of New Zealand in the next 24 hours.

The 26-year-old all-rounder pleaded not guilty to affray at Bristol Magistrates Court on Tuesday morning and was granted bail before the next hearing in the case takes place on March 12.

Shortly after Stokes’ first court appearance, the England and Wales Cricket Board issued a statement confirming his travel plans.

He is not expected to make an immediate return to the team in the next week, however, as he bids to resume his international career after more than four months of unavailability.

An ECB spokesman said: “Having entered his plea at Bristol Magistrates Court today, Ben Stokes will now travel to New Zealand to join the England squad.

“He departs tomorrow, Wednesday February 14, and will arrive on Friday February 16, ready to train with England team-mates in Hamilton.”

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Ben Stokes leaving Bristol Magistrates’ Court

England, who lost the Ashes in Stokes’ absence this winter but hit back with a 4-1 victory in the subsequent one-day international series against Australia, are in danger of an early exit from the ongoing Twenty20 tri-series after defeat against New Zealand in Wellington on Tuesday.

The ECB spokesman added: “Any decision to include him in upcoming matches will be made by head coach Trevor Bayliss and the England management team. He is not currently being considered for the ongoing International T20 Tri-Series.

“(The) ECB fully respects his right to defend himself in court, and any obligations he has within the legal process will always take precedence over England commitments.

“It has been confirmed that he will not be required to return to the UK for the first hearing at Bristol Crown Court on Monday March 12.”

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Australia beat England - without Stokes - to the Ashes

Stokes’ leave from court proceedings on that date perhaps suggests a feasible return to England colours for bilateral ODI and Test series against New Zealand which begin with the 50-over leg on February 25 and end in his native Christchurch on April 3.

It was confirmed at his Tuesday hearing that he will face a crown court trial over an altercation outside a nightclub in Bristol last September.

The Durham match-winner and England’s Test vice-captain – who was suspended from playing in the Ashes while he waited to hear if he would be charged – is accused of affray along with two other men.

Stokes appeared in court on Tuesday alongside Ryan Ali, 28, and Ryan Hale, 26.

Any decision to include him in upcoming matches will be made by head coach Trevor Bayliss and the England management team ECB statement on Ben Stokes

It follows the altercation in the Clifton Triangle area of Bristol during the early hours of September 25 last year – several hours after England had played a one-day international against West Indies in the city.

It is alleged a 27-year-old man suffered a fractured eye socket in the incident, at which Stokes’ England team-mate Alex Hales was also present.

Ali, Stokes and Hale spoke to confirm their names, dates of births, addresses and nationalities.

The clerk read out the charges, and all three defendants indicated not guilty pleas.

The full charge sheet shows that Stokes, of Castle Eden, Durham, is accused of affray on September 25 at Queens Road in Bristol.

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Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of (left to right) England and Durham cricketer Ben Stokes, Ryan Hale and Ryan Ali (PA)

He is accused jointly with Ali and Hale of using or threatening unlawful violence towards another.

The charge states that his “conduct was such as would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for his personal safety”.

The other two defendants face the same charge.

Affray is an either-way offence, meaning it can be tried at the magistrates court or the crown court. But all three defendants elected to be tried by a jury at the crown court.

District Judge Simon Cooper told the three defendants: “I have decided that your trial will take place at the crown court at Bristol. The first hearing date will be March 12. You will be on bail.”

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