England cricketer Ben Stokes has been cleared of affray after jurors accepted he was acting in self-defence during an alcohol-fuelled street brawl.

Stokes, 27, insisted he was defending his friend Alex Hales and two gay men when he launched a barrage of punches at a fire brigade worker and an Afghanistan war veteran.

However, the England all-rounder and his teammate Hales, who was never charged, could still face a ban from cricket after one of the most damaging scandals in the national game's history.

Jurors took two hours and 40 minutes to accept evidence that the all-rounder was defending himself during a sustained outbreak of violence which left two men unconscious.

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Stokes accepts punching Afghanistan war veteran Ryan Hale, 27, to the ground and then hitting Ryan Ali, who was left with a broken eye socket.

Ali, his co-defendant, was also found not guilty over the 2.30am attack outside a Bristol nightclub last September.

England cricketer Ben Stokes arrives at Bristol Crown Court for his court case. Photo / AP
England cricketer Ben Stokes arrives at Bristol Crown Court for his court case. Photo / AP

Stokes, who had been drinking heavily and smoking, denied claims he was enraged after a spat with a doorman who had refused to allow him and Hales back into a nightclub hours after England had beaten the West Indies in a one-day international.

Instead, he told how he was leaping to the defence of two clubbers, Kai Barry and William O'Connor, but the Crown claimed CCTV evidence indicated he was mocking the "flamboyant" pair.

Gordon Cole QC, representing Stokes, asked jurors to take into account the "blows, kicks and/or stamps" carried out by Nottinghamshire batsman Hales as they weighed up whether Stokes was to blame for Ali's broken eye socket.

As the jury of six men and six women returned its verdict, Stokes staggered forward in the dock, and puffed out his cheeks as the foreman delivered his not guilty verdict. His wife Claire sobbed in the public gallery.

Football hooligans

Before violence flared, Stokes had downed at least 10 drinks - jägerbombs, vodka and beers - while celebrating with teammates.

Student Max Wilson said Stokes, Hales and the other men involved in the fight were behaving like football hooligans.

"They were clearly drunk," he said.

Jimmy Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Liam Plunkett, Jake Ball and Alex Hales had started drinking beers with Stokes at their hotel bar at around 7pm.

The party eventually decided to continue their celebrations at a late-night bar, taking a taxi at 11.25pm to Mbargo on Bristol's Clifton Triangle.

Ball, who was drinking with Stokes, insisted: "It wasn't a wild night out".

But shortly before 1am, they left Mbargo and went to another club called Pryzm.

The bar was quiet. Some chose to go home, but Hales and Stokes returned to Mbargo.

Conflicting evidence

Stokes denied claims his mood darkened after nightclub bouncer Andrew Cunningham refused to let him back into Mbargo.

Cunningham said Stokes insulted his tattoos and teeth in a foul-mouthed rant.

The cricketer then became "aggressive" and was "obviously upset" after his offer of £300 ($580) to get back into the venue was refused.

During the row over re-entry to the club, Stokes is said to have told Cunningham: "Look at the state of your teeth ... they make you look like a c***."

Stokes had no recollection of the exchange, instead insisting he was joking about his own bad tattoos.

As they waited outside, Stokes and Hales were joined by O'Connor and Barry, who were apparently leaving the club.

Cunningham claimed Stokes mimicked their mannerisms and voices. CCTV footage appeared to show Stokes flicking his cigarette at the pair.

Cunningham claims Hales intervened by saying: "Stokesy, don't do that."

Stokes, however, denied the claims, insisting they were exchanging "banter" about his £695 white leather shoes.

He added: "I don't remember every little detail which has gone on that night."

The missing minute that sparked the fight

The brawl erupted shortly after 2.32am - but the true cause of the fight may never be known.

Ali, who Stokes would end up fighting, had drunk six or seven Jack Daniel's and Cokes, and in CCTV footage is seen walking out of the club with Hale, followed by O'Connor and Barry.

"There is a period of about one-and-a-half minutes which is not covered by any footage with the consequence that the footage does not show exactly how the fight began," Corsellis said.

Stokes said he and Hales were trying to find a nearby casino on his teammate's iPhone map.

He said he shouted at Ali and Hale to stop insulting the two gay men.

"Leave it out ... you shouldn't be taking the piss because they're gay," Stokes claims he said.

He claimed Ali then turned his brown beer bottle upside down and shouted: "F*** off or I'll bottle you".

During cross-examination, however, Stokes was unable to remember exactly what was said to spark his intervention.

Ali denied his version, saying he could only remember banter with O'Connor and Barry.

He was unable to explain a scene showing Barry touching Ali around the groin before trying to take his arm.

He told jurors the England cricketer "was very angry and looking for someone to pick on".

Both Stokes and Ali claim they were acting in self-defence and blamed each other for being the aggressor.

The footage

CCTV of the fight was captured on cameras located around the Clifton Triangle area – a popular nightspot in Bristol.

The first images of the violence show Ali waving a glass bottle towards Hales before delivering a glancing blow to Barry's shoulder.

"As soon as I see Mr Ali swing the bottle and physically hit them that's when I took the decision to get involved," Stokes claimed.

"I was trying to stop Mr Ali doing damage to anybody with a glass bottle."

Stokes and Ali tussled and fell to the floor and when he got back to his feet Hale was standing in front of him.

"I felt under threat by these two and felt I had to do whatever it was to keep myself and others around me safe," Stokes said.

Hales, who had earlier kicked Ali in the head three times, then tried to grab Stokes, repeatedly begging his teammate to stop, telling him: "Stokes, Stokes, that's enough".

When asked if he had become "enraged" at any point during the incident, Stokes replied that it was a "difficult question to answer".

The 1.8m sportsman added: "I didn't know they could be carrying more weapons on them.

"They could decide to attack me at any time if I was to turn my back on either of these two. At all times I felt under threat from these two."

Hales escapes charges

Video taken in hospital later shows Ali with a bulging, bruised and bloodied eye socket. He also snapped a tooth.

Hale suffered a "1.5in laceration to his forehead", while Stokes had no obvious injuries apart from a swelling on his right hand.

After police arrived at the scene, Stokes is recorded telling officers he got involved with the fight because Ali and Hale "were abusing my friends for being gay".

In the conversation with police recorded on body-worn camera, the prosecution claimed Stokes mouthed at Hales and winked at him.

Hales, meanwhile, initially told police he arrived after officers, but Gordon Cole QC, representing Stokes, asked jurors to consider whether the Nottinghamshire batsman's kicks were responsible for Ali's broken eye socket.

Hale was found not guilty last week of affray by the jury on direction of the judge.