Stokes to join England in New Zealand

Bhuvneshwar Kumar

Stokes formally entered his plea of not guilty to charges of affray relating to the incident in Bristol last September which ruled him out of the winter's global cricket, including the Ashes.

The 26-year-old has not played any global cricket since then, but with the court confirming that he doesn't need to appear for a hearing on March 12, he will leave for New Zealand on Wednesday.

The England coach admitted that the team did miss the services of Stokes despite their 4-1 drubbing of Australia in recently-concluded ODI series. He is not now being considered for the ongoing worldwide T20 Tri-Series.

Stokes has not played for England since last September, but he did feature in six limited-overs matches for New Zealand domestic side Canterbury.

The statement said any decision to include him in upcoming matches would be made by the England management team.

The case has now been sent to Bristol Crown Court after Stokes and two other defendants denied the charge relating to an incident outside a nightclub in September a year ago.

Yet the European Central Bank statement emphasised any obligations he has within the legal process "will always take precedence" over his England commitments.

Instead, Stokes is set to make his worldwide comeback during the five-match ODI series against New Zealand, which begins on February 25 in Hamilton.

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Stokes missed the Ashes after being suspended from playing for England.

Ben Stokes, pictured arriving at Bristol Magistrates Court where he pleaded not guilty to affray.

The 26-year-old Durham all-rounder is charged with affray after a man allegedly suffered a broken eye socket.

The 26-year-old England all-rounder is accused of affray alongside two other men.

The charge states that their "conduct was such as would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for his personal safety". "The first hearing date will be 12 March", said district judge Simon Cooper. He is expected to participate in the Indian Premier League (IPL) after being bought by Rajasthan Royals for a whopping sum of Rs 12.5 crore in the mega auction.

In a statement posted on Twitter last month, Stokes said he was "keen to have an opportunity to clear my name".

The case was adjourned for a crown court trial later this year. Given the scale of travel involved - Stokes will leave England on Wednesday - the usual protocol is to give players a day or two off to avoid injury.

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