England all-rounder Ben Stokes was cleared on Wednesday to resume his international career while he contests a charge of affray following a violent incident outside a nightclub in September. Suspended by England while he was under investigation by police, the 26-year-old Stokes is now free to play for his country having been charged by prosecutors with an offence that could lead to a jail term if he is convicted.
With no date set for his court case, the England and Wales Cricket Board said "it would not be fair, reasonable or proportionate for Ben Stokes to remain unavailable for a further indeterminate period."
Former England captain Michael Atherton said the ECB's decision "seems illogical" and that "most people would find it hard to square the two positions."
Stokes, one of the world's leading cricketers in all formats, missed England's Ashes series in Australia and the start of the ODI series between the countries because of his provisional suspension by the ECB.
He went to New Zealand for a month to play for Canterbury in domestic limited-overs competitions and was given permission by the England team leadership to enter the draft for the lucrative Indian Premier League at the end of January. He was the costliest player in last year's IPL — Rising Pune Supergiant paid $2.15 million for the powerful allrounder — and ended the competition as its Most Valuable Player.
Stokes was expected to join England's squad for Twenty20 matches against New Zealand in February, the ECB said.
"ECB fully respects the legal process," the governing body said in a statement, "and the player's intention to defend himself against the charge."