Ashes hopeful Ben Stokes remains in limbo as police investigating England cricket star's street brawl pass file to Crown Prosecution Service
- Ben Stokes could face charge of actual bodily harm after alleged fight in Bristol
- Avon and Somerset Police have passed files to CPS to consider charging Stokes
- It has emerged that victim of September incident suffered fractured eye socket
- Stokes suffered a broken finger during incident outside a nightclub
- He has flown to New Zealand to visit family and play cricket for Canterbury
- Stokes could join up with England Ashes squad if he is cleared of assault?
The chances of Ben Stokes playing in the Ashes appeared to recede on Wednesday night when police passed the investigation into September's Bristol street brawl to the Crown Prosecution Service.
Less than 24 hours after the England all-rounder landed in New Zealand to visit family and play for the first time since being arrested on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm, Avon and Somerset Police concluded their probe and handed the evidence to the CPS for a decision over charges.
An Avon and Somerset Police statement read: 'A 27-year-old man suffered a fractured eye socket in the incident. 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.'
?Ben Stokes arrived in Christchurch on Wednesday morning with his luggage and cricket kit
?Stokes received a warm embrace from his mum, Deborah, after landing in New Zealand
?The England all-rounder flew out to play cricket in New Zealand amid his Ashes omission?
Prosecutors must now decide whether the files contain strong enough evidence to provide a reasonable chance of a conviction in court, while weighing up what Stokes's defence case might be.
Video footage emerged of the early-hours altercation on?September 25 which appeared to show him throwing a number of punches.
However, two gay men have since gone public with claims that the fight was sparked after Stokes and England one-day team-mate Alex Hales — who were out celebrating the win over West Indies in Bristol — came to their defence when they became victims of homophobic abuse.
Stokes flew to Christchurch on Monday and intends to play a one-day game for Canterbury this Sunday in a bid to be match fit for England, should he face no charge.
Stokes was welcomed by family members, including his mother and father Gerard (right)
Stokes is surrounded by reporters as he makes his way out of Christchurch Airport
Sportsmail understands the finger he fractured in the Bristol incident has fully healed and he is ready to go after practising for the past five weeks.
But he remains in limbo due to uncertainty over how long it will take the CPS to reach a decision. Even if they do not recommend charges, he would still need to be given the green light to resume playing by the ECB's cricket discipline commission.
Although Sportsmail is aware any ban would be retrospective — to include two ODIs against West Indies plus the first two Ashes Tests — the ECB will want to be seen to be following their own potentially time-consuming disciplinary procedures.
The third Ashes Test begins in Perth a fortnight on Thursday, followed by Melbourne's traditional Boxing Day match and the series finale in Sydney in early January.
He was pictured on Twitter on Monday night boarding a flight from Heathrow
But from the perspective of the England dressing room, the equation is simple: the sooner he can bolster their efforts, the better — not least because defeat in the second Test at Adelaide would ramp up the chatter about a third 5-0 whitewash in the last four Ashes visits.
According to all-rounder Chris Woakes, England would welcome back Stokes 'with open arms'.
Speaking hours before the Avon and Somerset Police statement, Woakes said: 'We are all friends with Ben. He is a world-class all-rounder and makes any team in the world better, so it would be silly for us to say we don't want him. Of course we would welcome him with open arms if he was to be called up at any stage.
'The fact he is going off his own bat to New Zealand to get some cricket under his belt shows he is desperate to come out and be a part of a great series.'
Stokes is England's star all-rounder, excelling with both bat and ball in hand in recent years
There are hopes he could yet join England's Ashes squad, which lost the first Test in Australia last week, but they will be dashed if he is charged by the CPS with actual bodily harm
But while Woakes and his team-mates want Stokes back, they are fighting the temptation to regard him as a potential saviour.
'If you start thinking like that, you get into a negative mindset,' he said. 'Of course he could be the difference, but at the same time we knew we didn't have him, and we as players have to step up and put in those performances that Ben would usually put in.'
Woakes caused amusement by describing what Jonny Bairstow did to Australia opener Cameron Bancroft last month as 'not an official head-butt', but he insisted England's wicketkeeper could turn the furore to his advantage.
'People feel the Australians have got to him, and he'll be coming out to prove that's not the case,' said Woakes. 'It was blown completely out of proportion. Jonny sees it that way and he's ready to focus on his cricket.'?
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