Two gay nightclub revellers who Ben Stokes intervened to protect during a city centre brawl have described the England cricketer as a "hero".
Kai Barry and William O’Connor said they were followed" by Ryan Ali, 28, and Ryan Hale, 27, after leaving the Mbargo nightclub in Bristol shortly after 2am on September 25 last year.
The two men told ITV's Good Morning Britain that England all-rounder Stokes – who was found not guilty of affray on Tuesday by a jury at Bristol Crown Court – intervened after they suffered homophobic abuse.
Mr Barry said that when he and Mr O'Connor left the nightclub in the Clifton Triangle they had a cigarette outside with 27-year-old Stokes before they walked off.
"We walked round the corner and got followed by the two guys, and I think they said something, like a horrible remark… a homophobic remark… and we turned around to see what was going on and I remember Bill and the other people shouting and Ben came up the road to check I was all right," he said.
"He called me into the middle of the road and then I get nearly attacked with a bottle, pretty much attacked with a bottle.
"If someone comes at you with a bottle you can’t really not feel not threatened."
Stokes accepted he knocked Ali and Hale unconscious during the fracas but insisted he was acting in self-defence, or in the defence of others, after Mr Barry and Mr O’Connor suffered homophobic abuse.
Stokes and Ali both claimed they were acting in self-defence and blamed each other for being the aggressor. The jury acquitted Stokes, Ali and Hale of affray.
CCTV footage showed Ali waving a bottle towards Stokes's England team-mate Alex Hales before delivering a glancing blow to the shoulder of Mr Barry.
Mr Barry and Mr O’Connor, who were not called as witnesses in the trial, were asked whether the cricketer – who has been recalled to the England Test squad after his acquittal – was a hero.
"Yes, definitely, I agree with that 100%. He stuck up for us when we were vulnerable. If he wasn’t there, god only knows what would have happened," Mr O’Connor said.
Mr Barry said Stokes "took a risk" by getting involved and could have paid a heavy price if he had been found guilty, although at the time he did not know who the star was.
"I didn’t want that for him. He took a risk and I wouldn’t expect any normal person to do that in the middle of the street," he said.
"I just thought he was a general bloke having a good time, a bit of banter, a few drinks. He was a really nice person when I was speaking to him."
Mr Barry said he was "pleased" that "really nice guy" Stokes was found not guilty.
"Thank you for what you did and I am so sorry it went down like that and it shouldn’t have lasted that long in the first place," he said.
"If it was any other person it wouldn’t have, would it?"
Mr O’Connor added: "We were so delighted he got off and (can) get back to his cricket.
"It was brilliant what he done, stick up for two gay men. You don’t really get people out there like that, so definitely did a very good job."