England all-rounder Ben Stokes’s international comeback plans have been plunged into fresh uncertainty after a date was set for his trial on a charge of affray.
Stokes is due to appear at Bristol Magistrates Court on 13 February – the same day as a Twenty20 clash with New Zealand in Wellington that had been pencilled in as his first England outing in more than four months.
The 26-year-old will be expected to attend the hearing unless his legal team can successfully argue for the date to be put back.
Stokes was charged along with two other men on Monday in relation to an incident outside a Bristol nightclub in September. He has indicated his intention to contest the charge.
England chiefs have been criticised for their handling of the controversy, having suspended Test vice-captain Stokes upon his arrest and then lifted the ban this week despite him being charged.
Head coach Trevor Bayliss, however, insists the episode did not distract his players during the Ashes series Down Under, which ended this month in a 4-0 defeat.
“It was certainly something we’d much rather not have had to deal with but when the games came around they were fully focused on playing,” he said.