Stokes 'mocked gay men before fight'


Ben Stokes leaving court

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PA

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Ben Stokes leaves Bristol Crown Court after the first day of the trial

England cricketer Ben Stokes mocked two gay men and flicked a cigarette butt at one of them before brawling with two other men, a court has heard.

The Durham all-rounder, who will miss the second Test against India at Lord’s, denies affray.

Bristol Crown Court heard Ryan Ali, 28, and Ryan Hale, 27, were knocked unconscious by Mr Stokes in Bristol on 25 September 2017.

They also deny affray and are on trial alongside Mr Stokes.

The fight outside a nightclub was “a sustained episode of significant violence” in which Mr Stokes “lost control”, jurors were told.

Broken eye socket

Nicholas Corsellis, prosecuting, said Mr Stokes, 27, had “knocked Mr Hale unconscious and then – after time to pause for thought, to calm – he did exactly the same to Mr Ali”.

The prosecutor described Mr Stokes’s actions as “well beyond acting in self-defence or defence of another”.

The cricketer has maintained that “at all times he acted in self-defence of himself or others” and believed the force he used was “reasonable and entirely justified”.

An altercation took place in the Clifton Triangle area of the city just after 02:00 BST after the three defendants had left a nightclub, Mr Corsellis said.

The court heard Mr Ali had sustained “significant injuries”, including a broken eye socket.

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Ryan Ali (left) and Ryan Hale have both pleaded not guilty to affray

Mr Corsellis told the jury a bottle was used at the beginning by Mr Ali, and a broken street sign brought into the fray towards the end by Mr Hale.

The defendants had been drinking in Mbargo nightclub, with the fight taking place after it closed, jurors heard.

Mr Stokes and his teammate Alex Hales had left the nightclub at 00:46 but returned at 02:08.

Bouncer Andrew Cunningham explained to the pair the club was closed and they would not be allowed in.

However, an “obviously upset” Mr Stokes became “aggressive” and insulted Mr Cunningham about his appearance, jurors heard.

Mr Cunningham said Mr Stokes’s attention then turned to two “openly gay” men – Kai Barry and William O’Connor – outside the venue.

He claimed the cricketer had mimicked their voices and mannerisms in what he described as “a derogatory way”.

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The fight took place after Mr Stokes was turned away from Mbargo nightclub, the court heard

Mr Corsellis said footage showed Mr Stokes “copying hand gestures made by the men”, while the bouncer claimed the cricketer had flicked a cigarette butt at Mr O’Connor.

“Mr Stokes’s behaviour outside the nightclub sets an important tone for what happened that night,” the prosecutor said.

“He was clearly frustrated and annoyed. He took to acting in a provocative and offensive way.”

Only the defendants know precisely how the fight started, Mr Corsellis told the court, which was shown further footage of the incident.

‘That’s enough’

A video showed Mr Ali hitting Mr Barry on the shoulder with a bottle.

Mr Stokes threw at punch at Mr Ali, and the pair fell to the ground, the jury were told.

Then Mr Hale tried to drag Mr Stokes off Mr Ali, the court heard. Mr Hale told police he had been “smashed to the floor”.

Mr Corsellis alleged Mr Stokes did not act in self-defence but had pursued the other men in “retaliation”.

“Everybody except him wants it to stop,” he told the jury.

He said that in the footage Mr Stokes’ England teammate Mr Hales could be heard to say: “Stokes, Stokes, that’s enough.”

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Julia Quenzler

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Ben Stokes, Ryan Hale and Ryan Ali all deny affray

Mr Ali said “move away, move away” and Mr Hale said “stop, stop”, Mr Corsellis told the court.

An eyewitness, Laura Sweeney, said she saw Mr Hale pull a metal leg from a road sign and run towards the other men.

After he was arrested Mr Stokes was interviewed by police, and in a prepared statement said he saw two men speaking to two gay men in a “harsh and abusive” way.

The statement said he “took exception to this and said ‘leave it out'”.

Chip on shoulder

Mr Hale then “grabbed and pulled” him, and Mr Stokes “felt the need to defend himself as he thought he was going to be attacked” and hit him “more than once”, jurors were told.

In a second statement Mr Stokes denied being “aggressive” towards Mr Cunningham, accusing him of being “rude” and suggested he had a “chip on his shoulder”.

“He denied mimicking or behaving in a derogatory manner towards Mr Barry and Mr O’Connor, saying that they had engaged in joking with each other and denied flicking a cigarette butt at anyone,” the court heard.

Mr Stokes, of Castle Eden, Durham, was arrested in the early hours along with Mr Ali, of Bristol, and Mr Hale, of Westbury-on-Trym, Bristol.

The fight took place several hours after England had played a one-day international against the West Indies at the city’s County Ground.

The trial continues.



Pakistan election: Imran Khan claims victory amid rigging claims


Imran Khan addressing Pakistan after claiming victory in the election

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Reuters

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Imran Khan giving his televised speech from his home on the outskirts of Islamabad

Former cricketer Imran Khan has claimed victory in Pakistan’s election, amid accusations of vote rigging by rivals.

In a television address, he said: “We were successful and we were given a mandate.”

His PTI party is still expected to fall short of an overall majority, so it would have to seek coalition partners in order to form a government.

Campaigning has been marred by violence. On voting day a bomb killed 31 people at a polling station.

Mr Khan, the charismatic patrician who captained Pakistan to a World Cup victory in 1992, has long shed his celebrity playboy image and has recently faced accusations that his election challenge was benefiting from military interference in the nuclear-armed republic.

An official confirmation of the vote is still to come.

  • Can Imran Khan change Pakistan?
  • Why Pakistan’s election matters

The party of disgraced former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has rejected the results, as have a host of smaller parties, all alleging vote-rigging and manipulation.

The election has been seen as a contest between Mr Khan’s PTI party and Mr Sharif’s PML-N, with the party of assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, the historically liberal PPP, widely expected to come third.

In his address, Mr Khan said: “I think this has been the clearest, fairest election Pakistan has ever had.” He added that he would investigate any claims to the contrary.

He also appealed to his rivals to join hands with him to develop Pakistan. And he vowed to hold talks with India to seek a resolution to the dispute over the Kashmir region, a key flashpoint between the nuclear-armed countries.

He also called for “mutually beneficial” ties with the United States, despite being an outspoken critic of that country’s anti-terrorism measures in the region, such as drone strikes.

What are the latest figures?

Figures from the Electoral Commission show Mr Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) party has 105 of the 272 National Assembly constituencies being contested.

Earlier, unofficial projections from Pakistan’s Dawn Newspaper reported the PTI on 120.

A total of 137 seats is required for a majority.

This election will mark only the second time that a civilian government has handed power to another after serving a full term in Pakistan.

The turnout has been estimated at between 50% and 55% out of 106 million registered voters, AFP reports.

On Thursday, Dawn said the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) had raised questions over the voting process. “The commission received complaints that in many areas women were not allowed to vote,” the newspaper reported.

Who are the other main players?

Mr Sharif, who won the last election, is in jail after a scandal stemming from the Panama Papers leak, but remained a looming figure in this election.

He appointed his brother, Shahbaz Sharif, as head of the PML-N, to run in his absence.

  • Nawaz Sharif: Pakistan’s three-time PM
  • Bilawal Bhutto Zardari: Heir to a political dynasty

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, a 29-year-old son of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, ran for the PPP, after becoming party chairman when he was still a student at Oxford University in the UK.

Who is Imran Khan?

Mr Khan, who first entered politics in 1996 but struggled for years on the political sidelines, now styles himself as a pious, populist, anti-poverty reformer.

“God has given me a chance to come to power to implement that ideology, which I started 22 years ago,” he said in his speech.

He also said he would not live in the prime minister’s usual grand residence. “Whatever the ruling elite has been doing in Pakistan so far with the taxpayers’ money, I’m promising you today I will change all of that.”

  • The cricket hero turned politician

The 65-year-old campaigned on a message of anti-corruption and vowed to take on Pakistan’s entrenched political dynasties.

But his views on Islamist militancy will be scrutinised if he becomes prime minister – he has criticised some of the Taliban’s violence but last year his party’s government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province gave $3m (£2.3m) to the notorious Haqqania madrassa, headed by a man known as the “father of the Taliban”.

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Media captionFive things to know about Imran Khan

What will be the next prime minister’s main challenges?

Before the election Mr Khan told the BBC that if he were to be elected, his initial focus would be on the economy. Pakistan’s currency, the rupee, has declined by 20%. Inflation is on the rise and the trade deficit widening.

Exports such as textiles have taken a hit from cheaper products by regional competitors, including China. Analysts say the new government may need to turn to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for the country’s second bailout since 2013.

The BBC’s Secunder Kermani in Islamabad says tough decisions that could entail curbs on spending will be easier in a government Mr Khan is able to dominate.

However, if his rivals continue to reject the results, and even potentially launch the kind of street protests Mr Khan did while in opposition, the country could face political instability.

Why does this election matter?

Pakistan has a population of nearly 200 million, and is a nuclear-armed rival to India, a key developing economy and one of the world’s largest Muslim-majority nations.

The country has been ruled on and off by the military during its 71-year history, so this election is significant because it is considered the country’s second consecutive democratic transition.

Are the elections clean?

Both the run-up to the vote, and the vote count itself, have been highly controversial.

Ahead of the elections, the PML-N complained of a targeted crackdown by the security establishment, with the alleged help of the courts, in favour of the PTI party. The Pakistani military denied interfering in politics.

Independent media, meanwhile, say there have been blatant attempts to muzzle them, while the human rights commission has said there are “ample grounds” to question the legitimacy of the polls.

After the polls closed on Wednesday, several political groups alleged that vote rigging was taking place in polling stations – something denied by election officials.

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EPA

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Wednesday’s attack in Quetta has been claimed by the Islamic State group

Representatives from several parties said that their polling agents were expelled from polling stations during vote count and were denied certified copies of results – breaching election procedures.

Analysts have also highlighted unusual delays in the announcement of unofficial results in dozens of constituencies, especially in the crucial province of Punjab which has been a stronghold of PML-N.

Election officials say delays in releasing the results are simply down to failures in the electronic reporting system and that votes are now being counted manually.



Sri Lanka's Galle cricket stadium risks being demolished


England cricket fans watch the second day of the opening Test match between Sri Lanka and England from the top of the 17th century Dutch fort overlooking Galle Stadium in Galle (27 March 2012)

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AFP

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England fans watch their team play Sri Lanka at Galle Stadium in 2012

One of the world’s most picturesque cricket stadiums is at risk of being demolished because it threatens the heritage status of a nearby fort.

Galle cricket stadium, in southern Sri Lanka, is famed for its stunning views of the Indian Ocean.

But it is the 17th Century Dutch fort which looms over the ground that has put it in danger.

Sri Lanka’s cultural affairs minister Wijeyadasa Rakapakshe said the fort risks losing Unesco World Heritage status because of unauthorised construction nearby, including the 500-seat pavilion stand which was rebuilt after the ground was devastated by the 2004 tsunami.

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AFP

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Sri Lanka have won most of the matches they have played here since 1998

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AFP

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Standing on the fort affords a good view of the cricket below

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AFP

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England are due to play here in November, and may end up being the last team to do so

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AFP

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The stadium was devastated by the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, which killed at least 31,000 people in Sri Lanka

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AFP

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It was rebuilt afterwards – but the new pavilion blocks the view of the fort from the city’s main road

Mr Rakapakshe said the government had been left with a choice: either remain on the World Heritage list, or keep the pavilion.

However, Arjuna Ranatunga – who led Sri Lanka to victory in the 1996 World Cup as captain – has suggested a compromise: demolish the current stand, and put up temporary seating when Test matches were played.

  • England to tour Sri Lanka in October



Legend D'Oliveira awarded freedom of city of Worcester


Basil D'Oliveira

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Basil D’Oliveira, fondly known as Dolly, represented England in 44 Test matches

Cricket legend Basil D’Oliveira is to be posthumously awarded the freedom of the city of Worcester.

Born in South Africa, D’Oliveira moved to England in 1960 because of the lack of opportunities for non-white players.

He played for Worcestershire between 1964 and 1980, and represented England in 44 Tests.

Councillors voted unanimously in favour of awarding D’Oliveira the honour, after a proposal was put forward by the city’s mayor.

  • Midlands Live: Two more charged over Telford death; Ex MG Rover staff could get share of £40m

D’Oliveira, who was born in Cape Town, died in 2011 at the age of 83.

Although, his family has said he did not have a birth certificate and they may never know his exact age.

In 1968, South Africa cancelled an England tour after the all-rounder was called up to the squad.

The cancellation of the tour led to a ban on sporting ties with South Africa which lasted until the early 1990s.

Worcestershire honoured D’Oliveira in 2003 when they named a new stand after him at their New Road ground.

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Basil D’Oliveira (right) with Paddy Feeny, Neil Durden-Smith and Bobby Moore at the BBC in 1968

D’Oliveira will be given the award after a proposal by Mayor of Worcester Jabba Riaz was approved at an extraordinary city council meeting on Tuesday.

It will be presented to his family at a civic reception in September and his name will be inscribed on the Honorary Freeman Panel in the Guildhall.



Are the beer snake's days numbered?


A "beer snake" at Old Trafford

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Getty Images

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“Beer snakes” are regular visitors to the Old Trafford ground

Cricket fans’ tradition of making “beer snakes” could be threatened by the launch of a new reusable cup system.

Lancashire County Cricket Club is introducing a multiple-use cup scheme to cut down on the 250,000 single-use cups used at Old Trafford every year.

They will make their full debut when England meet Australia on 24 June.

Some social media users are worried the move will kill the tradition of used cups being paraded through the stands in a long, winding collection.

A club spokesman said the cups, which require a £1 deposit, had been trialled during Lancashire’s one-day game against Yorkshire on 5 June.

They will now be rolled out across the summer, beginning with England’s one-day international against the Aussies later this month.

Beer snakes have become common sights in cricket, with crowds across the world gathering together hundreds of discarded cups to form them.

At Old Trafford, it usually appears in the Foster’s Party Stand, where its arrival is often greeted by fans chanting “feed the snake or it will die”.

The Lancashire snake has attracted media attention too, with former England bowler and cricket pundit Graeme Swann mentioning it on Twitter several times.

Stephen Morgan wrote that it was ironic the environment would be “saved at the expense of” one of its own, adding “RIP Beer Snake”.

Darren Hoy congratulated the club for “moving forward” but spared a thought for the snake’s demise.

However, Adrian Ward thought the more well-off members of the crowd might be able to “keep the tradition alive”.

Anthony Mundy, the club’s operations director, said it was “determined to change” the amount of single-use plastics.

Alex Hopkinson, whose company has supplied the cups, said alongside the environmental gains, the club would also “benefit from having less clear-up and the supporters will benefit by having a sturdier cup to drink out of, meaning less spillage and a cleaner stadium to enjoy”.



Arjun Tendulkar: Sachin's son named in India under-19 squad


Arjun Tendulkar at the Bradman Oval

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ABC

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Arjun is the only son of Sachin Tendulkar, who also has a older daughter named Sara

The son of legendary Indian batsman Sachin Tendulkar, Arjun, has been picked for the national under-19 team.

The team will play five one-day internationals and two four-day matches in Sri Lanka in July.

Sachin, who remains the most revered sportsman in India, said his son’s selection “was an important milestone in his cricketing life”.

Experts have praised Arjun Tendulkar’s ability to perform well in junior cricket despite intense media scrutiny.

In an interview with BBC Sport in January, Tendulkar Jr said his dream was to play for India.

“Yes, I’m working very hard to. That’s my ultimate dream,” he said.

Taller and thinner than his legendary father, when asked about the stresses of continuing the name associated globally with an icon, he says: “I don’t take that pressure.

“When I bowl I just think hit the deck hard with every ball and when I bat I just play my shots, and choose which bowlers to take on and which not to.”

Arjun Tendulkar is a left-arm fast bowler. He said he did not choose bowling consciously.

“I just grew taller and got stronger,” he explains.

“And I just loved bowling fast in my childhood. So I thought I might as well be a fast bowler because there’s not many in India.”

Asked whether his father had been a decisive influence he adds: “He helped me a lot. But he didn’t force me into it.”