Ben Stokes
The Durham all-rounder is the vice-captain of England's Test team. Reuters

Ben Stokes will miss England's upcoming Ashes tour should he still be under police investigation by the time the team heads to Australia later this month.

In the early hours of 25 September, the 26-year-old and teammate Alex Hales were involved in a violent brawl outside a nightclub in Bristol. The fracas was caught on video and the former appeared to throw up to 15 punches in the incident that left him with a broken finger.

The all-rounder was subsequently arrested on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm and he was detained overnight and released under investigation.

The police have not offered a timescale for the inquiry and similar incidents can take months to be resolved, meaning Stokes faces a race against the clock to be cleared in time by the time England leave for Australia on 28 October.

Stokes, who is the Test team vice-captain and a column of the England side, was named in the 16-man Ashes squad following the incident but the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has reserved its right to make a final decision on his inclusion.

It is understood that should the investigation be concluded before the squad leaves Britain, the ECB will still have to assess the outcome before deciding whether to allow the Durham all-rounder to tour or not.

According to the BBC, should the investigation be still ongoing by the end of the month, Stokes will instead be dropped from the touring party.

Neither Stokes nor Hales, who was not named in the Ashes squad, featured in the last two one-day internationals against the West Indies last week, after the ECB said the duo would be unavailable for selection until further notice.

Earlier this week, former Australia captain Ian Chappell appeared to rule out England's chances of defending the urn without Stokes.

"With Ben Stokes in the team, England have a realistic chance of retaining the Ashes," he wrote for CricInfo. "If he is missing through suspension following his late-night altercation in Bristol, then there's more chance of the Brexit decision being reversed than of England clinging to the urn."

"That's the dilemma facing the England hierarchy. If Stokes is convicted, they will have little choice but to seal his fate. The ECB will then be taking a decision it knows will almost certainly sentence the team to defeat."

Meanwhile, Australia's hopes of regaining the trophy they lost in 2015 have suffered a blow of their own, after fast bowler James Pattinson was ruled out of the contest due to an ongoing back injury.

The 27-year-old was left out of last month's tour of Bangladesh as with a lower-back stress fracture but has failed to recover in time and will now take an indefinite break from bowling.

"Obviously I am extremely disappointed with this setback after just getting back into a good run of playing cricket," Pattinson said.

"I'm especially disappointed to miss out on the possibility to play in a home Ashes series."

England begin their tour with a warm-up match in Perth on 4 November, while the first Test kicks off in Brisbane on 23 November.