England chiefs have lifted their ban on Test vice-captain Ben Stokes representing the national team, saying it would not be “fair, reasonable or proportionate” to maintain his suspension.
Stokes was charged with affray on Monday in relation to an alleged incident in Bristol in September and is set to appear before magistrates, along with two other men, on an as-yet unspecified date.
The all-rounder has not played for England since his initial arrest four months ago, missing a 4-0 Ashes series defeat, but is due to rejoin the set-up next month for the tour of New Zealand.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) said: “Following a full board discussion, in which all considerations were taken into account, the ECB board has agreed that Ben Stokes should now be considered for England selection.
“Given the Crown Prosecution Service decision to charge him and two others with affray, confirmation of his intention to contest the charge and the potential length of time to trial, the board agreed that it would not be fair, reasonable or proportionate for Ben Stokes to remain unavailable for a further indeterminate period.”
Stokes, 26, could play for England again as soon as 13 November, when they begin the tour of New Zealand with the first of two Twenty20 matches.
That is followed by five one-day internationals and a two-match Test series that concludes in the first week of April.
“The ECB fully respects the legal process and the player’s intention to defend himself against the charge. England selectors, management and players have been informed and Ben Stokes is expected to join the squad in New Zealand for February’s T20 matches.”
Stokes travelled to his native New Zealand in November to play domestic cricket for Canterbury on a short-term deal. He played three one-day matches and three T20s before returning to England at the end of the year. He was also given the ECB’s approval to play in this year’s Indian Premier League, which starts in April.
He responded to news of his affray charge on Monday by saying that he welcomed the chance to clear his name.
England are currently in Australia, where they lead the hosts 1-0 after the opening match of a five-game one-day series. The second match is on Brisbane on Friday. They then play Australia in two T20 fixtures before heading to New Zealand.