Bristol: England cricketer Ben Stokes agreed he had a “significant memory blackout” over a street brawl but told a court on Friday he was “absolutely not” an angry man who had lost all control.
International star Stokes and Ryan Ali, both 27, are being tried for affray over a brawl that erupted in Bristol, southwest England, in the early hours of September 25 last year.
The cricketer faced cross-examination from prosecutor Nicholas Corsellis on the fifth day of the trial at Bristol Crown Court.
Stokes said he intervened because Ali and his friend Ryan Hale had directed alleged homophobic abuse at gay men William O’Connor and Kai Barry as they walked away from Mbargo nightclub.
He could not recall what was said, but “I am very clear that the words that were used were homophobic”, he told the court.
Corsellis asked Stokes if he had a “significant memory blackout” from the night in question.
The sportsman replied: “You could say that, yes.”
– ‘Throwing multiple punches’ –
Stokes went out celebrating after beating the West Indies in a match in Bristol on September 24.
Stokes said he would have had a bottle of beer after the match, two or three pints at the hotel, five or six vodka and lemonades and then “potentially had some Jaegerbombs” in Mbargo.
The prosecutor asked: “You don’t really remember significant parts of this incident, for example knocking Mr Ali out? Is that because you were really very drunk?”
Stokes replied: “No.
“I think the whole incident would have been clouded because it was such… there was a lot of people around… a lot of shouting.”
He added: “It’s clearly in my statements that I admit to throwing multiple punches.”
Stokes insisted that after he told Ali to stop verbally abusing O’Connor and Barry, Ali told him to shut up “or I’ll bottle you”.
The cricketer told the court that earlier on, he had not mocked or been homophobic towards Barry and O’Connor when talking with them outside Mbargo, where he had been refused re-entry.
Looking at security camera footage from outside the nightclub, Stokes said it was not possible to tell if he was angry.
“I might just be looking at the night sky,” he said.
Corsellis asked: “Who were you speaking to when you were looking at the night sky?”
Stokes replied: “God?”
– Retaliation claim –
Corsellis said that after getting involved with Ali, going to ground with him and Ali being disarmed, “you thought, ‘I am going to retaliate and I am going to punish you and hit you out of revenge’. Is that not the truth?”
Stokes replied: “Absolutely not.”
Corsellis asked: “Is it what we see on the footage — an angry man who has lost all control?” Stokes again replied: “Absolutely not.”
The court has heard that Ali was knocked unconscious and suffered a fractured eye socket.
Giving evidence, Ali said he remained in the care of a surgeon and still suffered from double vision.
He said his memory of the night was “incomplete” due to his head injury.
Ali recalled walking along the street with Hale, Barry and O’Connor, “having a laugh and some banter and the next thing I remember is having a tall blond man charging towards me”.
“I just didn’t want any trouble so I was backing away, trying to retreat.”
Asked why he was holding up a bottle and swung it at Barry, he said: “I would have to perceive a significant threat to do that.”
The prosecutor asked Ali why he thought Stokes ran towards him. Ali replied: “I have my own idea… he was very angry and looking for someone to pick on.”
The trial continues on Monday, when the jury is set to hear closing speeches before the judge sums up the case.