English cricket’s thirsty culture and nightlife patrols have landed three more players in hot water.
As Ben Stokes was told he will not travel with the England squad to Australia when they fly out for the Ashes tour on October 28, the fall-out from his arrest following a street brawl in Bristol continued to lap at the gates of Lord’s like floodwater.
Wicketkeeper-batsman Jonny Bairstow, all-rounder Liam Plunkett and pace bowler Jake Ball have been fined and handed written warnings for “unprofessional conduct”.
The fines, understood to be hundreds of pounds, were levied after England director of cricket Andrew Strauss launched an investigation into the behaviour of the one-day squad.
And although disciplinary action against Bairstow, Plunkett and Ball is not related to the incident involving all-rounder Stokes and big-hitting batsman Alex Hales, it marks a crackdown on unacceptable lifestyle by the England and Wales Cricket Board.
The undisclosed fines were paid into the Professional Cricketers’ Association benevolent fund and Hornsby Professional Cricketers’ fund.
ECB say the probe into the trio’s conduct is now concluded.
Middlesex pace bowler Steve Finn has been drafted into the squad and will replace Stokes in the party flying to Perth.
Lord’s sources insist Stokes had been ruled out of leaving on that flight, but not yet the whole Ashes series. But his hopes of playing any part on the tour are remote unless he is cleared by a police investigation into the fracas in the small hours of September 25.
In a statement, Strauss admitted England were effectively preparing for battle without Stokes, saying: “With the Ashes just around the corner, it’s important to give the players, coaching staff and supporters some clarity around a complex situation.
“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.
“We’ve spoken to Ben and assured him our decision in no way prejudges the outcome of the ongoing police investigation or the independent Cricket Discipline Commission process.”
ECB maintained their promise to award 12-month central contracts on purely cricketing criteria, and Stokes – as expected – was among the eight players awarded the top-ranked Test match package along with skipper Joe Root, Bairstow, James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes.
Finn has a chequered record in Australia.
He took 14 wickets in three Tests in 2010-11, when Strauss led England to their first Ashes triumph on Australian soil since 1986-87.
Four years ago, his action fell apart to the extent former one-day coach Ashley Giles revealed Finn was “unselectable.”
Strauss said: “Steven is a high-quality cricketer with considerable experience of international cricket and Australian conditions. The selectors believe he will add to our range of options.”
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