1. ITV Report

Cricketer Ben Stokes added to England squad after being found not guilty of affray

England have added cricketer Ben Stokes to their squad for this weekend's third Test, after he was found not guilty of affray at Bristol Crown Court.

He had been facing trial following a brawl with two nightclub revellers, hours after England played the West Indies in a one-day international in Bristol last year.

But within two hours of the end of his court case, the England and Wales Cricket Board issued a brief statement which read: "Ben Stokes will now join the England squad for the 3rd Specsavers Test against India, which starts at Trent Bridge on Saturday."

The 27-year-old's co-accused, Ryan Ali was also cleared of the same charge by the jury following a trial at the city's Crown Court.

Stokes punched Ryan Hale, 27, to the ground and then knocked out 28-year-old Ali in the early hours of September 25 last year in Bristol.

Stokes said he was acting in self-defence, or in the defence of others, when he punched the two best friends.

The jury at Bristol Crown Court took under three hours to acquit Stokes and co-accused Ali of affray following the seven day trial.

Stokes has said he is keen to get back to cricket and it is "his sole focus", according to a statement read on his behalf outside Bristol Crown Court.

Mr Stokes' statement was read out by his solicitor Paul Lunt following his acquittal and aside from highlighting his desire to get back into sport, the cricketer also pointed to stress caused by the trial.

Mr Lunt said: "In addition to the extreme stress placed on Ben and his family by the trial, his intervention that night has already cost Ben the England vice-captaincy, his place on an Ashes tour and his place on a number of other England matches.

"The past 11 months have served to highlight to Ben just how highly he values his position as an England representative, both in terms of the privilege that role entails and the responsibilities that accompany it."

He added: "Now that the trial is over, Ben is keen to get back to cricket being his sole focus."

At the start of the trial the Crown tried to amend the indictment and charge Stokes with two counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm but this was rejected by the judge.

Stokes missed the second Test against India and was not included in the squad for the third Test. Credit: PA

Also half way through the trial Stokes's legal team attempted to have the case against him dropped but this was also refused by the judge.

Stokes missed the second Test against India at Lords and was not included in the squad for the third Test, beginning on Saturday at Trent Bridge, because of the on-going court proceedings.

Former England captain Michael Vaughan was among the first to react to Stokes' acquittal.

Before the ECB statement was published, writing on Twitter, Vaughan urged England to clear him to play again as soon as possible.

He wrote: "I think the fact he missed the whole of the Winter in Australia is punishment enough for Ben Stokes .. I personally think now he has been proven to be Not Guilty he should be allowed to play ."

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The court heard how the night began with Stokes and other England players, including James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Liam Plunkett, Jake Ball and Alex Hales, taking taxis into Bristol city centre.

Stokes had "at least 10 drinks" in the hours before the incident, which included a bottle of beer, two or three pints of lager, five or six vodka and lemonades and some Jagerbombs.

He was accused of being "actually really very drunk."

Meanwhile Ali had drunk six or seven Jack Daniels and Cokes during his night out with Hale.

Ben Stokes after he was arrested Credit: PA

Much of the incident and the build-up was captured on CCTV cameras located around the Clifton Triangle area - a popular nightspot in Bristol.

Mbargo doorman Andrew Cunningham, 37, alleged he was offered £300 by Stokes to let him and Mr Hales back into the nightclub.

Cunningham accused Stokes of getting "verbally abusive" saying he had "s***t tattoos" and that his gold teeth made him look like a "c***."

He said Stokes was mimicking the mannerisms and voices of two gay men, William O'Connor and Kai Barry, outside the club but the cricketer insisted they were having "banter" about his white leather shoes.

Stokes said he could not remember flicking his cigarette butt towards the gay men or directing a V-sign at Cunningham.

The two cricketers left Mbargo and were looking for a casino when the violence erupted shortly after 2.30am in Queen's Road.

Ben Stokes and several of the England cricket team were in the Mbargo nightclub. Credit: PA

Both Stokes and Ali claim they were acting in self-defence and blamed each other for being the aggressor.

Stokes maintained he heard Ali and Hale direct homophobic abuse at O'Connor and Barry - but was unable to say what those words were.

And when Stokes intervened, "You shouldn't be taking the piss because they are gay," Stokes said Ali replied: "Shut the f*** up or I'll bottle you."

Ali told jurors the England cricketer "was very angry and looking for someone to pick on" and said that deciding to use a bottle as a weapon would be a "difficult decision for me to take."

CCTV footage shows Ali waving a bottle towards Hales before delivering a glancing blow to the shoulder of Barry.

"As soon as I see Ali swing the bottle and physically hit them that's when I took the decision to get involved," Stokes said.

CCTV footage shows Ali waving a bottle. Credit: PA

Stokes and Ali tussled and fell to the floor and when the sportsman got back to his feet Hale was stood in front of him.

"I felt under threat by these two and felt I had to do whatever it was to keep myself and others around me safe," Stokes added.

Hales tries to grab Stokes, repeatedly begging his teammate to stop, telling him "Stokes, Stokes, that's enough."

When asked if he had become "enraged" at any point during the incident, Stokes replied that it was a "difficult question to answer."

The 6ft 2in cricketer said: "I didn't know they could be carrying more weapons on them.

Ryan Ali was also found not guilty of affray. Credit: PA

Witnesses described seeing a group of men acting like "football hooligans" and dialled 999.

Stokes was arrested and asked why he punched Ali. He told police: "Because he was abusing my two friends for being gay."

Ali, an emergency services worker, suffered a fractured eye socket while Hale, a former soldier, was left with concussion.

Stokes, of Stockton Road, Castle Eden, Durham, and Ali, of Forest Road, Bristol, each denied a charge of affray.

Hale was found not guilty last week of affray by the jury on direction of the judge.

England all-rounder Stokes is keen to get back into cricket. Credit: PA

An independent Cricket Discipline Commission disciplinary investigation into the behaviour of Stokes and team-mate Alex Hales - which acts under the auspices of the ECB - was put on hold last September, while court proceedings took precedence.

But in its statement, the ECB confirmed the CDC will soon resume its deliberations.

It added: "Now that the legal proceedings have concluded, the disciplinary process for Ben Stokes and Alex Hales can be scheduled by the Cricket Discipline Commission.

"Considerable detail has been heard in this week-long court case and, in due course, there will be a range of matters for the board to fully consider."