“I was very honest and truthful with Robbo,” Stokes said. “I feel that’s something people deserve. Rather than just have a conversation to get through it easy, I’d rather let him know exactly where I stand.
“It enables him to go away and work on what has been asked of him. All I can say is he’s done that to the absolute extreme. He’s worked hard behind the scenes which is something that is probably not going to get reported, unfortunately.
“When you are in the position we are in as international cricketers and stuff goes wrong, it’s very easy to get put out there. But something I’ve made a very firm point on with the team is just to remember that what we say to each other in the dressing room is the most important thing. Let’s not try and let outside noise get in here and influence what we do.
“All the feedback Robbo has got from myself, the coach, the people who have helped him get where he is now has been nothing but positive. That’s what he should be listening to.
“It’s obviously been a very difficult time for Ollie because it wasn’t the fact that his form was letting him down. It was his body. That’s obviously a very tough thing to deal with when you want to do something, but the thing that needs to work for you to do that doesn’t. But I think he can look back on that and use it as something to always to look back on and to gain experience from that, because he’s here in the team and he’s playing this week.”
Dean Elgar, South Africa’s captain, admitted his surprise that Potts will miss out, “considering he’s had a really good summer”. Indeed, the numbers – 20 dismissals at exactly 28 apiece – and the manner of the Potts’ work mark him out as one of the finds of the summer. In explaining the logic behind the change, Stokes made sure to praise how Potts took on the news.
“We think what Ollie offers as a bowler is he gets the most bounce out of our attack,” Stokes said. “At Old Trafford, generally, with it being a slightly quicker wicket than other grounds we play at, it then obviously offers a lot more bounce. Obviously it’s very tough for Matty to miss out, but what he’s done in the five games that he’s played is he’s taken himself from a county cricketer with a lot of promise, really announced himself on the big stage.
“We’ve got to give him a lot of credit and to handle the decision so professionally at such a young age. I think that is a real indication of where we’re at, at the moment, as a team. The selection was based around what we thought was the best bowling attack to suit this particular ground and he completely understood that.
“For a 22-year-old to understand the bigger picture of what we’re trying to achieve here and not be sort of throwing his toys out the pram was honestly something that I think shouldn’t be overlooked.”