Ben Stokes' Ashes hopes all but disappear after indefinite suspension handed by the ECB

Stokes is the subject of an ECB internal investigation after the late-night brawl in Bristol

Chris Stocks
Thursday 28 September 2017 20:41
Stokes will continue to be paid despite his suspension
Stokes will continue to be paid despite his suspension

Any slim hopes Ben Stokes had of travelling to Australia for this winter’s Ashes disappeared when the Test vice-captain and Alex Hales were suspended indefinitely by the England & Wales Cricket Board.

Both players were stood down until further notice pending the results of the ECB’s own disciplinary inquiry into the alleged late-night brawl in Bristol last Monday morning that resulted in Stokes being arrested on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm.

Stokes was released without charge under police investigation but the emergence of a video of the alleged incident has left the ECB in a state of shock.

The case has now been referred to the board’s Cricket Disciplinary Commission and the indication is that neither Stokes nor Hales will be cleared to play again until the outcome of that inquiry, which has no set timeframe and sources say will go on for “the foreseeable future”.

It means there is little chance of Stokes being reinstated by the time England leave for Australia on October 28 and the ECB will not rush to judgment, especially with an ongoing police investigation into the incident.

An ECB statement said: “Ben Stokes and Alex Hales will not be considered for selection for England international matches until further notice.

Stokes has apologised for being arrested and is said to be 'devastated and fragile'

“Each remains on full pay pending further ECB investigation and the ongoing police investigation into an incident in Bristol in the early hours of Monday 25 September.

“Andrew Strauss, Director of England Cricket, will today refer the internal disciplinary procedure for these two players to the Cricket Discipline Commission, chaired by Tim O’Gorman.

“These decisions, fully supported by ECB Chairman Colin Graves, were made following the release of footage viewed by ECB for the first time on Wednesday night.”

Stokes has thrown his place on the Ashes tour into jeopardy

Stokes is set to be interviewed again by Somerset & Avon Police over the coming days following the emergence of the video that appears to show him grappling on the floor with a man and then throwing a series of punches before knocking one man to the ground and slapping another.

Reports have suggested Stokes was coming to aid of two men who were suffering homophobic abuse.

However, the video is limited in the picture it actually shows of the wider events leading up to the alleged brawl other than the fight escalating after one man appears to try and attack Hales with a bottle.

Whatever the outcome of the criminal investigation, Stokes’ tenure as Test vice-captain now looks over and England’s Ashes preparations are in complete disarray just a month before they depart for Australia.

Finding a replacement for Stokes, the world’s premier all-rounder, is impossible and his absence from the series would not only significantly diminish it but hand Australia a decisive advantage.

England still have one more match of their international summer to play on Friday. Hales is now unavailable for that one-day international against West Indies in Southampton, while Stokes would have been missing anyway because he fractured his hand during the incident in Bristol.

However, coach Trevor Bayliss admitted the current crisis is one of the toughest things he has had to deal with in his professional career.

The Australian, who as Sri Lanka coach was caught up in a terrorist attack in Lahore on his team’s bus in 2009, said: “It’s right up – it’s probably in the top two I would have thought.

Strauss confirmed an internal ECB investigation will take place into Stokes' conduct

“It’s very difficult for everyone involved. It’s something that obviously we didn’t want to go through and hope we don’t go through again.”

The ECB’s willingness to take action should at least dampen criticism of their handling of a situation that is one of the most difficult they have ever had to deal with.

Australian newspapers were quick to put the boot in to the ECB after the emergence of the video and a statement that stated only that they would “respect the ongoing police investigation”.

Sydney’s Daily Telegraph said: “As it stands, England’s lack of action against Stokes looks embarrassing compared to the swift action taken by Cricket Australia back in 2013 when David Warner was caught up in a comparatively minor nightclub scuffle with England counterpart Joe Root.”

The Melbourne Age added: “England’s desperate desire to win the series in Australia can be measured by Stokes not having been sacked. He cannot possibly tour Australia and must face a lengthy ban from cricket.

“England’s leaders have only to ask themselves how they would deal with this alleged incident if it involved Mason Crane, Craig Overton, James Vince, or any other of the fringe Test candidates coming to Australia? If any of those players had done what Stokes is alleged to have done, would their names still be on the squad list?”

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