LONDON: England cricketer Ben Stokes on Monday pleaded not guilty to charges of affray following an incident in Bristol last September and he will face trial on August 6. England’s second Test against India at Lord’s starts on August 9. All-rounder Stokes, 26, was not present at Bristol Crown Court and denied the charges via video link from New Zealand where he is on duty with the England squad. Two other men charged along with Stokes also pleaded not guilty to the same charges. The Bristol incident and the legal process that followed kept Stokes out of England’s Ashes tour of Australia but he returned to the team last month for the ODI series against New Zealand. Stokes, 26, wearing a grey shirt, said “hi judge” when he was introduced to Judge Peter Blair via the video link. The two other defendants, Ryan Ali, 28, and Ryan Hale, 26, appeared in person at the court.Judge Blair set a date of August 6 for the trial, which is expected to last between five and seven days. The second Test against India starts on August 9. “You must be here without fail for that trial,” the judge told Stokes, Ali and Hale. “You will remain on bail as before.” Stokes missed the Ashes tour after being suspended from playing for England. Without him, the tourists lost to Australia 4-0. England declared Stokes available again after he pleaded not guilty at Bristol Magistrates Court last month and he flew to New Zealand to join the squad after the court hearing. Stokes, Ali and Hale are jointly charged with affray in Bristol on September 25 last year – several hours after England had played a one-day international 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. Hales faced no charges. The charge states that their “conduct was such as would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for his personal safety”. Stokes featured in all five of England’s ODIs in New Zealand, with the tourists winning the series 3-2. England now have a two-Test series against New Zealand, which starts on March 22. Stokes is due to play in the Indian Premier League after being sold for USD 1.9 million to the Rajasthan Royals.Published in Daily Times, March 13th 2018.