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"No question" Stokes brought cricket into disrepute - but let him play, says Vaughan

Cricket

Former England captain Michael Vaughan claims Ben Stokes has brought cricket into disrepute but said the all-rounder has “suffered enough punishment” as he prepares for a return to Test cricket.

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Shortly after being cleared of affray at Bristol Crown Court last night, Australian time, Stokes was added to a squad of 13 for England’s third Test against India at Trent Bridge. 

However, the England and Wales Cricket Board also confirmed a disciplinary investigation is set to reconvene into the behaviour of Stokes and his teammate Alex Hales on a night out in Bristol last September. 

Stokes missed the summer Ashes tour of Australia after the incident, with his absence costing England dearly as the visitors crashed to a 4-0 series defeat.

The Cricket Discipline Commission process, which has the remit to impose penalties including an unlimited fine or suspension and termination of registration, was halted 11 months ago while criminal proceedings took precedence and will not resume imminently. 

While the outcome remains to be seen, Vaughan hopes Stokes will be allowed to return his full focus to on-field matters once again. 

“I believe he has suffered enough punishment already and the cricket disciplinary case against him should take into account the time he has already served after missing the five Tests and one-day series in Australia,” Vaughan wrote in his column for London’s Daily Telegraph. 

“There is no question he brought the game into disrepute but cricketers have few opportunities in their lives to play an Ashes series in Australia and missing that tour was a massive blow for Ben. There is no need to keep clobbering him with suspensions. 

“I totally agree with Ben being added to the squad for the third Test on Saturday as long as he feels ready to, which no doubt he does.”

The ECB clarified the latest situation in its statement soon after a jury unanimously cleared Stokes and co-defendant Ryan Ali. It read: “Now that the legal proceedings have concluded, the disciplinary process for Ben Stokes and Alex Hales can be scheduled by the Cricket Discipline Commission… considerable detail has been heard in this week-long court case and, in due course, there will be a range of matters for the board to fully consider.”

In September, England ruled Stokes out of the remainder of the ongoing ODI series against West Indies and the Ashes series, before his return during the tour of New Zealand. 

The 27-year-old stayed in the team, apart from a spell out with a hamstring injury, until he had to miss last week’s Lord’s Test victory because of a clash with his court case. 

He is now on course to help Joe Root’s team again as they bid to extend a 2-0 series lead over India, with three matches to play. 

Stokes’ solicitor Paul Lunt, in a statement read out after his client was cleared, said: “Now that the trial is over, Ben is keen to get back to cricket being his sole focus.” 

Stokes’ teammate Jonny Bairstow told Sky: “It has been a long 10 months for him and his family. I’m delighted and hope we can see him back in an England shirt very soon.”

It is no given that will be this weekend despite Stokes’ return to a squad from which he was initially omitted the previous day. 

It contains a winning team, in which his Lord’s understudy Chris Woakes put in a man-of-the-match performance and fellow all-rounder Sam Curran also consolidated his position. 

Stokes’ county club Durham, meanwhile, issued a one-line confirmation that he will not be available for their Vitality Blast fixture on Friday, at a time when he will instead be preparing with England in Nottingham. 

There was a further statement from the Professional Cricketers’ Association, pledging ongoing support as required by Stokes and Hales.

-PA 

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