England cricketer Ben Stokes is to go on trial after being accused of fighting outside a Bristol nightclub in September.
The 26-year-old Durham all-rounder is charged with affray after a man allegedly suffered a broken eye socket.
Mr Stokes, who missed the Ashes after being suspended from England duties, is accused jointly with two others.
Ryan Hale, 26, and 28-year-old Ryan Aslam Ali, both from Bristol, will face trial on the same charge.
Mr Stokes was granted unconditional bail after appearing at Bristol Magistrates’ Court and is now set to travel to New Zealand to re-join the England squad as part of their Twenty20 tri-series.
The three defendants were detained early on 25 September following a disturbance in the Clifton Triangle area of the city – several hours after England had played a one-day international against the West Indies.
‘Clear my name’
District Judge Simon Cooper, who also granted Mr Hale and Mr Ali unconditional bail, sent the case to trial at Bristol Crown Court.
The first hearing, which Mr Stokes is not expected to attend, is due on 12 March.
Mr Stokes’ court appearance had clashed with England’s defeat earlier to New Zealand, in which he had been due to make his international comeback.
In a statement posted on Twitter last month the player, from the Castle Eden area of Durham, said he was “keen to have an opportunity to clear my name”.
As a result of the charge, Mr Stokes missed the Ashes series, which hosts Australia won 4-0, although he was allowed to play some domestic matches in New Zealand.
What is affray?
The charge of affray is made under the Public Order Act 1986 and effectively relates to fighting in public.
It is a triable either-way offence, which means it can be heard in either the magistrates’ court or the crown court.
It carries a maximum penalty when tried summarily – in the magistrates’ court – of a fine or up to six months in prison, and when tried on indictment – in the crown court – of up to three years in prison.
He has also been given permission by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to take part in the Indian Premier League, which starts in April.
Last month, the ECB said that, “given the potential length of time to trial”, it would not be “fair, reasonable or proportionate for Ben Stokes to remain unavailable for a further indeterminate period”.