Ben Stokes has labelled allegations he and his wife were involved in a physical altercation at the Professional Cricketers’ Association awards “totally irresponsible”.
All-rounder Stokes played a starring role in England’s maiden World Cup win before repeating his heroics to help salvage an Ashes draw with Australia.
The 28-year-old Durham player was honoured for those achievements by scooping the Reg Hayter Cup at a gala dinner in London on October 3.
On Tuesday afternoon, pictures emerged of Stokes and his wife Clare appearing to become involved in a physical confrontation during the event at the Roundhouse in Camden.
However, Clare Stokes swiftly defended her husband in a Twitter post, which included a photo of her “squishing up” the cricketer’s face as a sign of “affection” as well as one of them together at the awards night.
“Unbelievable what nonsense these people will make up!” she wrote.
“Me and Ben messing about squishing up each other’s faces cos that’s how we show affection and some pap tries to twist it in to a crazy story! And all before we then have a romantic McDonalds 20 mins later!”
The New Zealand-born cricketer responded to his wife’s tweet with a face blowing a kiss emoji.
Stokes later gave a statement to the Daily Mirror in response to the allegations and paid tribute to the “wonderful relationship” he and his wife enjoy.
“I have become used to people making stuff up about me, but of all the topics not to mess with domestic abuse has to be at the top of the list,” the England all-rounder told the Mirror.
“It’s an incredibly serious issue for thousands of women – and men – who do suffer domestic abuse.
“For it to be toyed with for cheap headlines in this way just damages the cause of those who are abused.
“Clare is a strong, independent woman who can speak for herself.
“We have a wonderful relationship and I never tire of saying how lucky I am to be with her. We both had a great night at the PCA Awards, ending with us dining out at McDonald’s together.
“To falsify and spread these kind of allegations so willingly is totally irresponsible. The way that this has come across is so far removed from what it was.
“It was a stressful 45 minutes for us when we found out, but we wanted to address it as quickly as we could.”
The England and Wales Cricket Board said it had been in contact with Stokes and his wife, as well as others at the awards, and was satisfied with “the innocent context” behind the pictures.
Chief executive Tom Harrison said in a statement: “We have spoken with both Clare and Ben – as well as others in attendance – who have all clarified the innocent context behind the still photographs taken at last week’s PCA Awards.
“Whilst it is not the case here, we recognise that for the millions who are impacted by domestic violence, this is a very real and serious issue.”
The PA news agency understands the PCA, which represents every professional player in England and Wales, has spoken to the couple following publication of the photographs and supports their comments.
Following her initial Twitter message, Clare Stokes also thanked her husband for organising a surprise birthday party for her, saying she was not going to “let some idiots ruin my 30th”.
She also posted a video of the occasion which showed the cricketer making a speech, in which he said: “We’ve been through a lot over the last two years as a couple, so I hope tonight shows you a little bit of appreciation that I very rarely show you.
“You do know how much you mean to me, I love you and I wouldn’t be where I am today without you, so happy birthday.”
Over the summer, Stokes had cemented his status as one of England’s biggest sporting stars.
The all-rounder opened the World Cup with an outstanding catch in the curtain-raiser against South Africa and his unbeaten 84 against New Zealand in the final was central to England winning the competition for the first time.
Stokes followed that up with a sensational 135 not out against Australia at Headingley – a stand-out innings in an Ashes series where his 441 runs at an average of 55.12 was his team’s best aggregate total.
Despite Australia retaining the urn courtesy of a 2-2 series draw, Stokes’ herculean efforts in recent months saw him become favourite with bookmakers to win the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award.
In September, the cricketer condemned as “utterly disgusting” a front-page newspaper story reporting on a family tragedy from more than three decades ago.
The England player said the publication by The Sun newspaper of “extremely painful, sensitive and personal details” about his family would have “grave and lifelong consequences” for his loved ones.
The Sun, which said it has the “utmost sympathy for Ben Stokes and his mother”, responded that it had contacted Stokes before printing the article and “at no stage did he or his representatives ask us not to publish the story”.
In August last year, Stokes was found not guilty of affray following a brawl with two nightclub revellers in the early hours of September 25, 2017 in Bristol city centre, shortly after England had played the West Indies in a one-day international in the city.
In September 2018, he was charged by the England and Wales Cricket Board with bringing the game into disrepute and in December was suspended by the Cricket Discipline Commission for eight games, all of which had been served.