England captain Root denies drinking culture in his team

Gay men come forward and say Ben Stokes protected them from homophobic thugs in Bristol street brawl

"If Ben hadn't intervened it could have been a lot worse for us".

"He was a real hero", said O'Connell. Barry feared he could be attacked.

Barry, who claimed that he and O'Connell had been called "batty boys" added: "I'm not a fighter and we didn't want a fight".

"Ben is a really nice guy and I hope he can still play for England in the Ashes".

Both of them were unaware of the case that was subsequently registered on Stokes and his England team-mate Alex Hales, who was also involved in the bust-up.

The friends said they only became aware of the footage this week when a police officer visited them.

Ben Stokes may have been handed an Ashes lifeline, with two gay men coming forward to praise him for defending them against abuse.

"I don't think there's a drinking culture in our side".

Billy's shirt got ripped in the melee as it "all kicked off", The Sun reports.

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Root also said that his players would be free to go out and socialise in Australia, despite all allegations over the team.

Hours earlier, England had beaten West Indies by 124 runs in their third one-day global in Bristol, with Stokes scoring 73.

'Stokes was arrested in the early hours of Monday morning, 25 September, following an incident in Bristol.

Stokes still remains under investigation and is waiting to find out if he will be charged or not.

Before boarding the plane to Perth, Woakes had been practising at England's High Performance Centre in Loughborough in a tent heated up to 30 degrees to simulate Down Under, as well as in the Edgbaston nets with Moeen Ali, another all-rounder who has to grow his game to compensate for Stokes. Ben was wonderful for standing up for us like that.

Ryan Hale, a 26-year-old ex-soldier, was taken to hospital with facial injuries following the brawl.

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. One of England's strengths going back to the 2015 Ashes success has been the depth of their batting and Woakes, with nine first-class hundreds, said he would relish the chance to show his ability.

"We know that what's happened hasn't been good enough and we are determined to get that right", he said.

"We couldn't believe it when we found out they were famous cricketers".

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