BEN STOKES and Alex Hales last night publicly apologised for their involvement in a fight outside a Bristol nightclub in September last year after being cleared to continue their international careers.
The Cricket Discipline Commission (CDC) handed Stokes an eight-match ban – six for the brawl and two for an “inappropriate video” in which he appeared to mock the disabled son of television personality Katie Price – but accepted that he had already missed these matches after sitting out last winter’s Ashes tour.
Stokes, who was cleared of affray in August, was also fined £15,000 in both cases, with the fine relating to the “inappropriate video” to be paid to charity.
Both players were found guilty of bringing the game into disrepute after pleading guilty during a two-day hearing in London.
Hales, who did not face criminal charges, was handed a four-match white-ball ban for his part in the brawl – two of which the CDC considered had been served last year, with the other two-game ban suspended for 12 months.
Hales received a further two-match suspended one-year white-ball ban for a charge relating to “inappropriate images” circulated online and was fined a total of £17,500, of which £10,000 was suspended.
Cricket and family are my life. This incident has been a huge burden for the last 15 months. I am relieved to get back to playing the game that I love without this hanging over me. Although the disciplinary process is now over, I have learned lessons that will stay with me for much longer.Ben Stokes
As a condition of his suspension, Hales must undertake within three months “appropriate training as agreed and approved by the ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board)”.
The CDC, which acts independently of the ECB, added that the reasons for its decisions will be “released in due course”.
The bottom line, however, is that both players remain available for international selection, with England set to announce their squads for the forthcoming tour to the West Indies on Monday.
Apologising publicly for the first time, now that the criminal and disciplinary process has been completed, Stokes said: “I have already apologised to my team-mates, coaches and support staff for the consequences of my actions in Bristol.
“I regret the incident ever happened and I apologise to England supporters and to the public for bringing the game in to disrepute.
“Cricket and family are my life. This incident has been a huge burden for the last 15 months. I am relieved to get back to playing the game that I love without this hanging over me. Although the disciplinary process is now over, I have learned lessons that will stay with me for much longer.”
Hales said: “There is no doubt I fell below the high standards expected of an international sportsman. More than anything, I sincerely apologise for putting myself in a position which allowed these very regrettable incidents to happen.
“Now all I want to do is concentrate on cricket.The next year is obviously an important one for England. I would love to be part of a squad that wins the World Cup in front of our own fans and I will be doing everything in my power to make that dream come true.”
David Leatherdale, the Professional Cricketers’ Association chief executive, said: “The PCA and both players fully accept the sanctions against them and it has been a fair hearing through the Cricket Discipline Commission.
“Both players are now keen to move on and continue their England careers.”
Tom Harrison, ECB chief executive, described the saga as “a very strong reminder of the values that sit at the heart of our game and the standards that should always be expected”.
Both players were fortunate that the CDC took matches already missed into consideration, and there is a widespread feeling within the game that it is time to move on.
Stokes returned to the England side last March, although Hales has lost his one-day place to Jason Roy.