Ben Stokes and Alex Hales cleared for West Indies tour after CDC verdict

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Alex Hales and Ben Stokes head to net practice (Getty Images)

Ben Stokes and Alex Hales will both be available for selection for the full itinerary of England’s tour of the Caribbean in the New Year, after the Cricket Discipline Commission (CDC) concluded their inquiry into the events in Bristol in September 2017.

Stokes was handed a £30,000 fine and an eight-match ban, although having missed two ODIs against West Indies in addition to the Australia leg of last winter’s tours, it was deemed that he has already missed the sufficient amount of games.

Hales was handed a £17,500 fine, with £10,000 suspended as well as a six-match ban, four of which are suspended for 12 months.

Both players and the ECB have accepted the verdicts – the CDC is funded by the ECB but claims to run as an independent organisation – which means there will be no appeals. As a result, a saga that had hung over England cricket for more than 15 months is finally over.

Indeed, both players pleaded guilty to the charges and have released statements expressing remorse. In his statement, Stokes for the first time apologised “to England supporters and to the public for bringing the game into disrepute.”

“Everyone will now be aware that the CDC disciplinary proceedings have now concluded and I accept the decision of the Panel,” said Stokes. “I had entered guilty pleas to bringing the game into disrepute much earlier in the process and I want to thank the panel for their time and consideration now that the hearing has ended.

“The criminal charges and, subsequently, the disciplinary charges have made it difficult to make public comment about the issues. I have already apologised to my team mates, coaches and support staff for the consequences of my actions in Bristol. I regret that the incident ever happened and I apologise to England supporters and to the public for bringing the game into disrepute. I want to say thank you to everyone who has supported me through this process.

“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.”

Both players were charged with two counts of bringing the game into disrepute. The first related to events outside a Bristol bar in September 2017 and involved staying out too late and drinking too much alcohol midway through an ODI series. The pair also subsequently became embroiled in a fight, though a court cleared Stokes of the charge of affray while Hales was not arrested.

The CDC imposed a ban from playing for England for six matches and a fine of £15,000 upon Stokes for that charge – they accepted he had already missed those matches – and a ban of four white-ball matches (two of which were served and two of which are suspended for 12-months) and fine of £7,500 (of which £4,500 is suspended for 12-months) upon Hales.

The second charge related to “inappropriate images” in the case of Hales and “inappropriate video” in the case of Stokes. In Hales’ case that relates to Snapchat images that appeared to show him in a state of undress, while in Stokes’ it was a video that appeared to show him mimicking Katie Price’s disabled son, Harvey.

The CDC imposed a ban from playing for England for two matches and a fine of £15,000 (to be paid to charity) upon Stokes for that charge – they accepted he had already missed those matches – and a ban of two white-ball matches (suspended for 12 months) and fine of £10,000 (of which £5,500 is suspended for 12 months) upon Hales.

Hales is also required to undertake, at his own cost, “appropriate training, as agreed and approved by the ECB” within three months. He joined Stokes in offering an apology.

“I am relieved today’s decision by the CDC means this chapter is now closed and I can move on with my career,” Hales said in a statement.

“There is no doubt I fell below the high standards expected of an international sportsman and that was the reason for my decision to admit the charges and accept the punishment handed down. More than anything, I sincerely apologise for putting myself in a position which allowed these very regrettable incidents to happen.”

“Today is a very strong reminder of the values that sit at the heart of our game and the standards that should always be expected,” Tom Harrison, Chief Executive Officer of the ECB, said.

“We accept the decisions made by the Cricket Discipline Commission and the sanctions they have given to Alex Hales and Ben Stokes.

“Each pleaded guilty, admitted their charges and has accepted their sanctions. They will now be available to play for England, with the same support as all of our players.”

The news will be a relief to the England team management and selectors. The squads for the Caribbean tour are named on Monday and news that Stokes, in particular, is free to play a full part in the tour will be a significant boost.

The cynics, however, will note the convenience of the penalties and wonder at the independence of the CDC.

Either way, an incident that has dogged England cricket for many months and threatened to derail the careers of one of the most promising cricketers of his generation is now over. (ESPNCricinfo)

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