England cricketer Ben Stokes has pleaded not guilty to affray following a fight outside a Bristol nightclub.

The 26-year-old – who missed the Ashes after being suspended from playing for England – took to the dock and denied the charge in front of a packed courtroom, the Daily Mail reports.

England's best player will now be tried at crown court at a later date. If found guilty, he could face a maximum prison sentence of three years.

Ryan Ali, 28, and Ryan Hale, 26, also pleaded not guilty to the same charge.

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Flanked by his co-defendants in the dock, Stokes showed no emotion as he entered his plea.

Earlier in the morning, Stokes, wearing a blue suit and white shirt, walked through a throng of press and photographers as he made his way inside Bristol Magistrates' Court.

In a statement released shortly after he was charged, Stokes said he welcomes the opportunity to give his account of what happened and 'clear my name'.

It follows a fight in the Clifton Triangle area of Bristol during the early hours of September 25 – several hours after England had played against the West Indies.

It is alleged a 27-year-old man suffered a fractured eye socket in the incident, at which fellow England cricketer Alex Hales was also present.

The charge of affray is made under the Public Order Act 1986 and effectively relates to fighting in public.

It carries a maximum penalty when tried on indictment – in the Crown Court – of up to three years in prison.

Stokes is desperately hoping to be given permission to fly to New Zealand immediately after the court hearing.

Controversially, the ECB gave Stokes the green light to resume playing international cricket as soon as he was charged.

Without Stokes, England lost the Ashes to Australia 4-0.

While England were in Australia, Stokes played a few games for Canterbury Kings during a month-long spell in New Zealand before returning home to England.

Stokes could make his England return in the one-day series against New Zealand which begins on February 25 after being included in a 15-man squad.

He is due to play in the Indian Premier League after being sold for £1.4 million to the Rajasthan Royals.

He will find out today whether he will be able to ride to England's rescue as they limp towards their second tour of a demanding winter.

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