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Two gay men have branded England cricketer Ben Stokes a “hero” after claiming he stepped in to defend them from homophobic abuse during a drunken bar brawl in Bristol last month.

Kai Barry, 26, and Billy O’Connell, 20, say Stokes got involved in the fight outside Mbbargo nightclub on September 25 after a group of men began calling them “batty boys”.

Billy told The Sun: “We were so grateful to Ben for stepping in to help. He was a real hero.

“Kai feared he could be  attacked. If Ben hadn’t intervened it could have been a lot worse for us.”

Kai added: “I’m not a fighter and we didn’t want a fight. We could’ve been in real trouble. Ben was a real gentleman.”

The pair said they had spent the night partying with Ben after meeting inside the bar earlier that evening.

“Ben bought us Jägerbombs. He knew we were gay but he didn’t make anything of it.”

Billy and Kai claim that a group of men had hurled homophobic slurs at them inside the club, and that things quickly escalated when the pair left and were confronted by the group outside.

“It all kicked off,” recalled Billy.

“We tried to stop it but couldn’t do anything. Ben was amazing for standing up for us like that.”

A 27-year-old man was left needing hospital treatment for facial injuries following the fight, which came as all-rounder Stokes and his teammate Alex Hales celebrated England’s win over the West Indies in their third one-day international earlier that day.

Stokes, who was caught on camera punching a man to floor, was arrested following the incident and was suspended indefinitely the England international cricket squad.

Police are yet to bring charges against him Hales, who has also been suspended from the team.

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