LONDON, (Reuters) – England suspended all-rounder Ben Stokes and opener Alex Hales from international cricket until further notice on Thursday after the pair were involved in an altercation outside a Bristol nightclub.
The announcement came a day after Stokes, England’s highest-profile cricketer and vice-captain of the test side, was named in the 16-man squad for the Ashes tour of Australia starting in November.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) said in a statement that both Stokes and Hales remained on full pay pending further investigation into the incident in the early hours of Monday.
Stokes was arrested on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm and then released without charge under investigation on Monday, and Hales was with him at the time of the incident.
“Ben Stokes and Alex Hales will not be considered for selection for England international matches until further notice,” the ECB said.
The immediate effect of the suspension is to rule both out of Friday’s final one-day international against West Indies in Southampton.
“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,” the ECB added.
“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.”
The Sun newspaper published footage of what it said was a brawl between the player and two other people, one clutching a bottle. The authenticity of the images could not be confirmed by Reuters.
Media reports said Stokes, who suffered a minor fracture of a finger on his right hand, had apologised to the ECB for his arrest and described his state of mind as “fragile and devastated”.
Should the 26-year-old definitively be ruled out of the tour, it would be a huge blow for England whose chances of defending the Ashes Down Under have already been called into question.
The hosts whitewashed England 5-0 in the last Ashes in Australia in 2013/14.
Strauss had hoped earlier that the situation could ‘galvanise’ the rest of the team.
“You can go one of two ways,” he said after the squad announcement. “It can actually bring people together or it can allow people to splinter off into other groups.
“What I’m very encouraged about is how tight that team environment is at the moment.
“I’m exceptionally hopeful that they can use this to galvanise things and bring them closer together to focus their minds on what they need to achieve in Australia.”