Ben Stokes’ wife has dismissed a report of a physical altercation between the couple at the Professional Cricketers’ Association awards.
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 said on Twitter.
“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.
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 paid tribute to his wife.
Clare Stokes tweeted: “Had the most amazing birthday weekend! Ben planned it all as a surprise! Got all my best friends and family there including flying people over from America and Australia! It was an incredible night and I’m so grateful to Ben for organising! Not gonna let some idiots ruin my 30th.”
In the video with the tweet, her husband says: “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.”
The England and Wales Cricket Board said it had spoken to 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.
Stokes cemented his status as one of England’s biggest sporting stars over the summer.
He 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 of “extremely painful, sensitive and personal details” about his family would have “grave and lifelong consequences” for his loved ones.
In a statement on Twitter, Stokes criticised The Sun newspaper, which had carried the story on its front page, accusing it of being focused on “chasing sales” regardless of the emotional impact on his family.
He said a reporter had turned up to his parents’ home in New Zealand “out of the blue” to ask them about the tragedy.
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”.
Earlier this month, Stokes was one of the headline picks at the launch of the ECB’s new The Hundred competition, joining Leeds-based franchise Northern Superchargers.
In August last year he 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.