BRISTOL, England (AP) — England cricket player Ben Stokes told police that two gay men thanked him for protecting them from homophobic abuse following a street brawl.

Stokes is standing trial at Bristol Crown Court accused of knocking out two other men outside a nightclub in the southwest English city in September last year.

Prosecutors say Stokes was the "main aggressor" in a fight that broke out after an England match.

But in a statement provided to police and heard in court Wednesday, Stokes said he only stepped in after hearing two men being homophobic toward two other men.

Stokes said "matters had become too serious to ignore and that I had to intervene."

Stokes himself is accused of earlier mocking the gay men outside the club and flicking a cigarette butt at them. Stokes denies taunting them, telling police they "thanked me for preventing them from being beaten up."

The trial continues.