Stokes free to join England in NZ
London: Ben Stokes will fly to New Zealand on Wednesday after he pleaded not guilty to a charge of affray over the incident that cost him his place on the Ashes tour.
The case has now been sent to Bristol Crown Court after Stokes and two other defendants denied the charge relating to an incident outside a nightclub in September last year.
The first hearing is scheduled for March 12, but Stokes will not be required to attend that initial court date.
That allows the all-rounder to join his England team-mates on their tour in New Zealand. He will arrive on Friday, with the sport's governing body saying he will be "ready to train" in Hamilton.
The ECB added that Stokes is not being considered for Sunday's T20I meeting with New Zealand. Despite suffering three consecutive defeats in the T20I tri-series, England could still reach the final if New Zealand lose to Australia on Friday and England on Sunday.
The ECB announced last month that Stokes would be considered for selection for the tour, saying that the potential length of time to trial meant it would not be "fair, reasonable or proportionate" for the 26-year-old to remain unavailable.
"Having entered his plea at Bristol Magistrates' Court today, Ben Stokes will now travel to New Zealand to join the England squad," said an ECB spokesman.
"Any decision to include him in the upcoming matches will be made by head coach Trevor Bayliss and the England management team. He is not currently being considered for the ongoing International T20I tri-Series."
Stokes could make his first appearance for England in the five one-day Internationals against New Zealand that begin on February 25. The Test series starts on March 22, 10 days after the first crown court hearing in Bristol.
Stokes, wearing a blue suit, sat one seat apart from fellow defendants Ryan Ali, 28, and Ryan Hale, 26, in Bristol Magistrates' Court and spoke only to confirm his name, date of birth, address, nationality and to enter his plea.
Ali and Hale also pleaded not guilty to the charge of affray relating to an altercation that took place outside a Bristol nightclub in September last year. It is alleged that a 27-year-old man suffered a fractured eye socket in the incident, at which fellow England player Alex Hales was also present.
All three defendants are accused jointly of using or threatening unlawful violence towards another, which the charge stating that their "conduct was such as would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for his personal safety".
All three defendants elected to be tried by a jury at crown court. The charge of affray carries a maximum penalty of up to three years in prison.
The Daily Telegraph