Duo claim Stokes defended them from homophobic abuse

Two gay men have claimed England all-rounder Ben Stokes was defending them from homophobic abuse prior to an incident that led to his arrest, according to The Sun newspaper.

Stokes' participation in the upcoming Ashes series is in doubt after he was arrested in Bristol last month on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm.

A final decision on the 26-year-old's involvement in England's tour of Australia has yet to be taken, but Stokes - who was released without charge under investigation - missed his team's initial departure on Friday. The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) have said he will not be considered for selection until further notice as investigations continue.

The Sun has now published an interview with two men - named by the newspaper as Kai Barry, 26, and 20-year-old Billy O'Connell - who claim Stokes leapt to their defence after they had been the victim of homophobic taunts.

O'Connell is quoted by the newspaper as saying: "Kai feared he could have been attacked. If Ben hadn't intervened it could have been a lot worse for us.

"We were so grateful to Ben for stepping in to help. He was a real hero. It would be awful if his career was ruined over this. He was just trying to help defend Kai."

Last month, The Sun published video footage that purported to show Stokes punching a man to the ground during the disorder that led to his arrest.

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