How the Stokes saga unfolded

Ben Stokes has pleaded not guilty to a charge of affray in relation to an incident outside a Bristol nightclub in December, moving the case to a Crown Court trial. ESPNcricinfo revisits the notable developments in the story.

September 24: England win in Bristol

Stokes cracks his way to 73 off 63 balls before Moeen Ali's barnstorming century takes England to 369 for 9. Despite an onslaught from Chris Gayle it proves more than enough to earn an unbeatable 2-0 series lead. Afterwards, various England players - including Stokes - let their hair down in the city centre with the next match still three days away.

September 26: News of Stokes' arrest emerges

What was meant to be the preview day to an end-of-season ODI suddenly changes when details of Stokes' arrest in the early hours of September 25 emerge. An ECB statement said: "Stokes was arrested in the early hours of Monday morning, 25 September, following an incident in Bristol. He was held overnight and released under investigation - without charge - late on Monday and will not join the team in London." Alex Hales was not arrested but returned to Bristol to help police with inquires.

September 27: Ashes squad announced

Twenty-four hours later, the Ashes squad is named as planned but in rather different circumstances to those that the ECB would have hoped. Stokes is included and retains the vice-captaincy while the police begin their investigation into the events in Bristol. It is also confirmed that Stokes suffered a "minor fracture" to his hand during the incident.

September 27: Video published, Stokes and Hales made unavailable

Shortly after England complete victory at The Oval, a video is published in The Sun of the Bristol incident which alleges to show Stokes throwing multiple punches. The ECB makes both Stokes and Hales - who is also alleged to be shown in the video - "unavailable for selection until further notice" although the pair remain on full pay while the incident is referred to the Cricket Discipline Commission chaired by Tim O'Gorman.

September 28: Police appeal for witnesses

Avon and Somerset police put out an appeal for two male witnesses to the events in Bristol to come forward to help with the investigation. "Our enquiries into the disorder in the Queens Road/Clifton Triangle area of Bristol in the early hours of Monday are continuing. We believe there are two specific witnesses, both men, with information about what happened in the moments prior to the disorder who are yet to come forward and we'd appeal for them to do so as soon as possible."

October 6: Finn called into Ashes squad as Stokes replacement

Stokes' chances of making the Ashes recede further as he is withdrawn from the Test squad while the police investigation continues. Steven Finn is drafted in instead. "With the Ashes just around the corner, it's important to give the players, the coaching staff and supporters some clarity around a complex situation," Andrew Strauss said. "This decision will help us in the weeks ahead and give every player and the whole England set-up the best chance to focus on the challenge ahead in Australia." Stokes is retained in the ECB's central contracts list for 2017-18.

October 7: Hales not expecting further action

Ian Kelcey, the Professional Cricketers' Association lawyer who is assisting Alex Hales, tells the Observer that it is "reasonable to expect" that Hales won't face further action over the incident having been interviewed by police and neither arrested or put on bail.

October 11: New Balance withdraw sponsorship

New Balance, the kit and clothing supplier, end their relationship with Stokes, which is estimated to be worth 200,000. On the same evening, Stokes makes his first public comment since the Bristol incident when he tweets an apology to Katie Price and her son Harvey following a video that emerged of Stokes which appeared to show him mocking Harvey.

October 12: Stokes' agent issues statement

Neil Fairbrother, Stokes' agent at ISM, puts out a statement which says that Stokes will give his full version of events in Bristol when the police investigation allows. There is also an acknowledgement of the impact there has been on his team-mates. "He is also concerned about the impact the widespread publicity has on everyone involved including the ECB, his team mates and the game of cricket itself which he loves."

October 16: Police reissue appeal for witnesses

Avon and Somerset Police reissue their appeal for the two key witnesses who "were seen leaving the nightclub at 2.19am, walking in the direction of Queens Road with two other men". The update added extra details of the men's appearances, including that both were white, clean-shaven, in their mid-20s and approximately 5ft 9in tall.

October 28: Two gay men claim Stokes 'saved them'

Kai Berry and Billy O'Connell tell The Sun that Stokes stepped in to rescue them on the night in question after an alleged homophobic attack. "We were so grateful to Ben for stepping in to help. He was a real hero," O'Connell told the paper. "Kai feared he could be attacked. If Ben hadn't intervened it could have been a lot worse for us."

November 27: Stokes heads for New Zealand as Ashes frenzy returns

A sighting of Stokes, with full cricket kit, at Heathrow Airport leads to frenzied speculation on social media that he is about to fly out to Australia to reinforce England's Ashes squad. It later transpires he was heading to New Zealand to visit family and regain his match fitness with Canterbury, but armed with an NOC from the ECB, it is clear he is being readied for Ashes action if he becomes available.

November 29: Police file passed to CPS

Avon and Somerset police announce that they have completed their investigation and sent a file to the CPS "seeking charging advice". It is also revealed that a 27-year-old man suffered a fractured eye socket in the incident.

December 3: Stokes comeback ends in three-wicket defeat

Stokes makes 2 from seven balls and fails to take a wicket in an underwhelming return to action for Canterbury against Otago at Rangiora. Though he would later find his form with a powerful innings of 93 from 47 balls against the same opponents a fortnight later, with England sliding to defeat in the Ashes, speculation of a recall ends with his return to England for Christmas.

December 4:Hales cleared for return by police

Hales, a key witness given his own involvement in the Bristol incident, receives confirmation from Avon and Somerset Police that he is no longer under investigation, and is given clearance to play his playing return in the inaugural T10 tournament in the UAE.

December 23: ECB won't stand in Stokes' way over IPL

Tom Harrison, the ECB chief executive, indicates that Stokes will not be denied an NOC for the IPL, and will be free to return to the tournament regardless of both the CPS decision and any subsequent internal disciplinary proceedings. He adds that, should Stokes be charged, it could take between six months and a year to resolve the situation.

January 13: Stokes named as top base price for IPL auction

After attracting a bid of USD 2.16 million in the 2017 IPL auction, and justifying that sum with the MVP award in that year's event, Stokes is among the 36 players who have listed their base price at the maximum of INR 2 crore (USD 315,000 approx) ahead of the IPL auction on January 27 and 28.

January 15: Stokes charged by CPS with affray

Stokes vows to clear his name after being charged by the CPS with affray. He will face trial at Bristol Magistrates' Court at a later date, along with two other men, Ryan Ali, 28, and Ryan Hale, 26.

January 17: Stokes cleared for England return

After the ECB Board meet following the charge against Stokes, he is made available for an England return and is expected to be part of the squad for the T20 tri-series in New Zealand. "The Board agreed that it would not be fair, reasonable or proportionate for Ben Stokes to remain unavailable for a further indeterminate period," a statement said. Stokes tweeted: "I'm extremely delighted to be given this opportunity to do this again. I can't wait to get back out on a pitch with the three Lions on my chest."

January 18: Court date clash

Less than 24 hours after being cleared for selection, Stokes' first court date is set for February 13 - the day of England's T20 against New Zealand in Wellington which had initially been earmarked for his return.

February 13: Stokes pleads not guilty

During a brief appearance at Bristol Magistrates Court, Stokes enters a not guilty plea - along with his two co-defendants - and the case is moved to Crown Court with the first hearing set for March 12. However, it is confirmed Stokes does not need to attend in person and the ECB say he will fly to New Zealand to join up with the squad.