Ben Stokes will almost certainly be back in the middle playing professional cricket this weekend – but his Ashes prospects appear to have receded dramatically.
Hours before the Canterbury Cricket Association confirmed Stokes has signed as an overseas player in New Zealand, a statement from Avon & Somerset Police revealed a decision was yet to be made over whether he will face charges in a criminal investigation.
The police update relayed that a decision on whether to charge him over an incident outside a Bristol nightclub has been passed to the Crown Prosecution Service – the outcome of which may not be known for weeks.
Those hoping he may yet return for England against Australia this winter will have to wait for that decision, and then the outcome of separate disciplinary proceedings by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).
Stokes was dropped from the England squad and suspended from playing for his country following his arrest on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm on September 25.
The match-winning all-rounder can at least look forward to resuming his career at domestic level for Canterbury Kings in his native Christchurch, starting against Otago on Sunday.
His return will coincide with day two of the second Ashes Test in Adelaide, where England must strive to battle back from 1-0 down following their 10-wicket defeat in Brisbane.
The CCA announced on Thursday that agreement has been reached with the ECB to add 26-year-old Stokes to the Kings squad.
In a statement, CCA added that the deal has also been “endorsed by the New Zealand Cricket Players’ Association and sanctioned by New Zealand Cricket”.
CCA director of cricket Gary Stead said: “After the approach from Ben’s representatives everything has happened very quickly for us to the extent that we are now delighted to welcome Ben into the team.”
Stokes’ unannounced flight to New Zealand this week prompted speculation he would be ready to join the Ashes tour if it is announced at any point soon that he will not face criminal charges.
He was initially named in England’s 16-man squad to tour Australia but then removed following the incident.
A Cricket Discipline Commission, under the auspices of the ECB, will conduct its own disciplinary inquiry once the police investigation is concluded.
Wednesday’s police statement read: “We’re now in a position to provide an update on our investigation into a disorder in Bristol which happened during the early hours on Monday, 25 September. A 27-year-old man suffered a fractured eye socked in the incident on Queens Road, Clifton.
“A 26-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm and was later released under investigation. Three other men, aged 26, 27 and 28 have all voluntarily attended police stations for interview.
“Today, we have passed a file to the Crown Prosecution Service and are now seeking charging advice.”
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