London: Ben Stokes's return to international cricket could be further delayed as he faces having to be in court the day he was due to play a T20 match in New Zealand, police revealed on Thursday.
The talismanic 26-year-old has been included in the squad to play a triangular T20 tournament being co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand in February but according to British media Avon and Somerset police have confirmed he is due in court on charges of affray on 13 February, the same day England play New Zealand.
Stokes was suspended from international duty by the ECB following his involvement in an incident outside a nightclub in September that reportedly left a man with a fractured eye socket.
As a result, the Durham all-rounder missed the whole of England's 4-0 Ashes series defeat in Australia.
Although England are currently involved in a one-day international series in Australia, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) said on Wednesday Stokes was expected to return to the England squad in his native New Zealand for February's triangular Twenty20 series that is being co-hosted with Australia.
Afterwards, England will remain in New Zealand for five one-day internationals and two Tests.
Stokes and two other men will appear at Bristol Magistrates' Court following the incident in the early hours of 25 September after England had beaten the West Indies in an ODI in the city.
Stokes, who came to England from New Zealand as a boy when his father changed jobs, sparked talk of a possible international recall by playing for New Zealand domestic side Canterbury for a month and he had recently been cleared by the ECB to appear in this year's edition of the Indian Premier League following an impressive first season in the lucrative Twenty20 tournament.
Under English law, affray, which refers to fighting in public, can carry a maximum sentence of up to three years in prison.
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ECB's Director of Cricket Ashley Giles has indicated that their centrally-contracted cricketers might not be available for the IPL as they have international commitments which they need to honour.
New Zealand are scheduled to play hosts England in a two-match Test series, beginning on 2 June, before facing India in the World Test Championships final at Southampton from 18 June.
The two-Test series against the hosts begin on 2 June, while the WTC final starts in Southampton from 18 June.