London (AFP) – Ben Stokes is still set to be included in England’s squad for the Ashes tour of Australia despite being arrested on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm in Bristol and dropped for Wednesday’s fourth one-day international against West Indies.
The 26-year-old Durham all-rounder was arrested early on Monday in the Clifton district of the city and released under investigation — without charge — the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) announced Tuesday.
Stokes and England batsman Alex Hales, 28, who was with him on Sunday night, will both miss Wednesday’s match at The Oval, ECB England cricket director Andrew Strauss said.
Meanwhile a statement issued by Avon and Somerset police said: “We were called to a disorder in Queens Road, Clifton, at around 2:35am (0135 GMT) on Monday.
“A 27-year-old man was found to have suffered facial injuries and was taken to the Bristol Royal Infirmary for treatment.
“A 26-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm and has since been released under investigation.”
The incident happened following England’s 124-run win in the third ODI — where Stokes made 73 — in southwest city Bristol on Sunday that put them 2-0 up in a five-match series against West Indies.
Wednesday’s fixture is due to get under way just two hours after England are meant to unveil their squad for the Ashes tour of Australia at The Oval in London.
Strauss drove to Bristol to speak to Test vice-captain Stokes before returning to the capital.
– ‘Held overnight’ –
Former England captain Strauss, reading an ECB statement to reporters at The Oval on Tuesday, said: “Ben Stokes and Alex Hales will not be available for tomorrow’s(Wednesday’s) one-day international match against West Indies at The Oval.
“Stokes was arrested in the early hours of Monday morning, 25 September, following an incident in Bristol.
“He was held overnight and released under investigation — without charge — late on Monday and will not join the team in London.
“Hales, who was with Stokes on Sunday night, did not train this (Tuesday) morning and has returned voluntarily to Bristol today to help police with their enquiries.”
Strauss added both Durham star Stokes — a Test regular — and Nottinghamshire batsman Hales, a fringe candidate who played the last of his 13 Tests 11 months ago, will be considered for the five-match Ashes series on cricketing grounds alone.
“The selectors have been instructed to select the Ashes squad based on form and fitness,” Strauss told Sky Sports in a subsequent interview.
England limited-overs captain Eoin Morgan admitted: “It is a big blow. Certainly losing a guy like Ben Stokes is a big one.”
Jason Roy is set to replace Hales on the Surrey opener’s home ground, with pacemen Jake Ball and Tom Curran vying for Stokes’s spot as England bid for a series-clinching win.
England announced later Tuesday that Kent batsman Sam Billings has been called into the squad as cover.
“We feel we have a strong enough squad to be able to fill that hole,” said Morgan.
“It’s important we can put it to one side and focus on our cricket.”
– ‘No punching’ –
Stokes, sent home from an England Lions or A-team tour in Australia in 2012/13 for flouting a ban on late-night drinking, insisted in an an interview with The Times magazine published on Saturday that he would never resort to violence on the field.
He also said he’d have no qualms about having a couple of beers after stumps were drawn.
“There’s adrenaline there, but I’d never get close to punching someone,” he said.
As for how he relaxed after close of play, Stokes added: “We’re grown men, go out for dinner, have a few pints.
“I’m 26, not 14. I don’t have to drink Diet Cokes with dinner.”
West Indies coach and former Australia batsman Stuart Law, while refusing to comment on Stokes’s situation directly, told AFP at The Oval on Tuesday: “Professional cricketers get paid a good wage these days… they get decent money and along with that comes responsibility.”