Two men claim Stokes saved them from homophobic attack

Ben Stokes took a blow on the foot during nets Getty Images

Two men have reportedly come forward to support the claim made by Ben Stokes in the wake of his arrest on suspicion of actual bodily harm last month, namely that he was acting in defence of two companions following a homophobic attack.

According to a report in The Sun, two gay men, Kai Barry, 26, and Billy O'Connell, 20, have praised Stokes for his actions, having met the England allrounder on a night out in Bristol in the wake of England's ODI victory over West Indies on September 24.

The development followed two appeals from Avon and Somerset Police following the incident outside Mbargo nightclub, the second of which went into detail about the build and hair colour of the two witnesses, who were seen leaving the scene shortly before Stokes' arrest at 2.35am.

O'Connell told the newspaper: "We were so grateful to Ben for stepping in to help. He was a real hero.

"Kai feared he could be attacked. If Ben hadn't intervened it could have been a lot worse for us."

Barry added: "I'm not a fighter and we didn't want a fight. We could've been in real trouble. Ben was a real gentleman."

Barry and O'Connell claimed they met Stokes and Hales in a nightclub on the evening in question and Stokes bought them drinks. They said they had no idea they were cricketers.

It was reported that Stokes and Hales were later walking along the road near the pair, after leaving the nightclub, when Barry and O'Connell were subjected to homophobic abuse.

Stokes has been unavailable for England selection since the incident, along with his team-mate Alex Hales, who was also present at the scene but was not arrested. He remains under investigation by Avon and Somerset Police.

Stokes was initially named as England vice-captain for the upcoming Ashes, but was withdrawn from the squad earlier this month, pending further investigation. At the team's departure press conference at Lord's, captain Joe Root said England were preparing to be without Stokes for the entirety of the Ashes.