Stokes to join England squad in New Zealand

Ben Stokes who denied the charge of affray now faces a trial by jury but was given permission to rejoin his team-mates in New Zealand

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 all-rounder formally entered a not guilty plea to charges of affray in Bristol Magistrates' Court on Tuesday.

It has been confirmed that Stokes will not be required to return to the United Kingdom for the first hearing at Bristol Crown Court on Monday, 12 March.

The plea at Bristol Magistrates' Court enabled the England and Wales Cricket Board to announce that Stokes would travel to New Zealand on Wednesday to join the touring squad.

England lost their third T20 in the Tri-Series against New Zealand in Wellington on Tuesday, failing by 12 runs to chase down the hosts' formidable total of 196-5.

After the announcement by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), Stokes tweeted his intention to defend himself: "I am keen to have an opportunity to clear my name but, on advice, the appropriate time to do this is when the case comes to trial". Stokes scored one half-century - 93 off 47 balls against Otago - and took three wickets in all.

"In the past, he's been out with injuries and coming back sooner than we think".

Stokes is desperately hoping to be given permission to fly to New Zealand immediately after the court hearing. "It's par for the course".

Stokes will be released by England for any future court appearances where his attendance is required. He was unsure when Stokes would have to return to England, as the two tests loom in Auckland starting on March 22 and Christchurch starting on March 30.

The three defendants were detained early on 25 September following a disturbance in the Clifton Triangle area of the city - several hours after England had played a one-day global against the West Indies.

The England cricketer has appeared in court for the first time since being charged after an alleged fight in Bristol.

England next play the Black Caps in Hamilton on Sunday. It is what it is. "We've been down to just the five bowlers", he said. They all can't wait for him to come back.

"To me, apart from the way he plays, he's a quality batter and bowler and our best fielder and one of the leaders in our squad".

The 26-year-old Durham all-rounder - who missed the Ashes after being suspended from playing for England - is accused of affray along with with two other men.

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