BEN Stokes' world was turned upside down after damning footage surfaced of him in an ugly street fight accompanied by teammate Alex Hales.
But Stokes was given a lifeline as his saga took a shock turn. The Sun revealed Stokes was defending two gay men from "homophobic thugs" on the street.
"We were so grateful to Ben for stepping in to help. He was a real hero," Billy O'Connell - one of the men who claimed was saved by Stokes - said.
"If Ben hadn't intervened it could have been a lot worse for us."
Stokes and Hales were suspended indefinitely by England, meaning the touring side has a little under a month to decide who their leading all-rounder will be going into the first Test at the Gabba in Brisbane.
The 26-year-old introduced himself to Australia during England's chaotic 2013/14 series which saw them whitewashed on Aussie shores for the second time in a decade. Stokes was the only English batsman to reach triple figures with a solid 120 in his second Test at the WACA.
He's since made a name for himself on the international circuit, becoming his country's vice-captain and hitting a trailblazing 258 against South Africa - so it's safe to say Australia will be reasonably happy to play against a Stokes-less England pack.
Iconic sports writer Robert "Crash" Craddock said the chances of Stokes playing in the Ashes are slim.
"I can't see him coming. I'm stunned it's taken this long to come to a decision," Craddock told SEN's The Run Home.
"Whatever evidence comes out, the other day there was two gay men who said he defended us, we were being harassed, that's all good and well, but it doesn't change the video when one man had his hands in front of his face basically saying Ben, please don't punch me and he put one right through him.
"That punch alone to me rules him out of the tour."
Craddock said he's been told Stokes can be a handful after a few drinks.
"Every cricketer that I have ever spoken to about Ben Stokes says two things: A. He's a really nice bloke and good company, and B. He shouldn't drink," he said.
"We've all known them, just sportsmen that become different people when they drink. They're real none or a gutful men, one's too many but a thousand is not enough. He's one of those guys."
Candice Warner, David Warner's wife, labelled Stokes' fight footage "disgusting" and said the 26-year-old should be kept from playing in this month's series opener.
"I know the Australian players would love to have Stokes out here because they want to play against the best, but I don't think he can come, I really don't," Warner said.
"That footage is disgusting, it is really, really bad."
The 32-year-old said Stokes' behaviour was worse than her husband's altercation with England star Joe Root in 2013.
"David wasn't charged when he hit Joe Root - he was banned for two games," she said. "Why wouldn't Ben Stokes get reprimanded? This is a lot worse, this is way worse."
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