ENGLAND cricket star Ben Stokes only ‘took a swing at’ two men he knocked unconscious because they were threatening a gay couple he had never met before, he told a court yesterday.
Entering the witness box yesterday, the Durham and England all-rounder said he was merely sticking up for the two men being subjected to homophobic abuse by Ryan Ali and Ryan Hale.
He told jurors: ‘I was protecting myself. As soon as this episode started I knew that not just myself but other people could be a target of either of these two men.
‘One had already verbally told me what he would do if I didn’t “shut the f*** up” – he had ran at a close friend of mine with a bottle.’
He accused Ali and Mr Hale of ‘shouting homophobic comments’ at Kai Barry and William O’Connor, adding: ‘I stepped in and said you shouldn’t be saying those things to those two men.’
Stokes accepted he ‘took a swing at’ Ali, whom he accused of starting the brawl while armed with a bottle. He said: ‘The whole time that I was using any force was in the belief that these two gentlemen I’d never met before were prepared to use weapons again.’
His evidence came shortly after judge Peter Blair instructed jurors at Bristol crown court to find Mr Hale, 27, not guilty of affray, as there was no case to answer. Stokes, 27, and Ali, 28, remain on trial for the same offence.
The jury had earlier been shown footage, from an officer’s bodycam, of Stokes sitting in the back of a police car after his arrest.
He had been out celebrating in Bristol last September after England’s win against the West Indies in a one-day match in the city.
The brawl started after he and team-mate Alex Hales were refused re-entry to Mbargo nightclub after 2am. Stokes rejected suggestions he mocked nightclub bouncer Andrew Cunningham, claiming he was being self-deprecating about his own dress sense and ‘s***’ tattoos.
He said: ‘I am constantly getting told by team-mates and by who I play with that I have got s*** tattoos.’ He also rejected claims he aggressively mimicked Mr Barry and Mr O’Connor. When asked if he had been homophobic, he declared: ‘No, absolutely not.’ He said his interactions with them were jokes about clothing, saying: ‘I get told that I dress the worst in the team.’
Former firefighter Ali, of Bristol, and Stokes, of Durham, deny affray. The trial continues.