After returning to England with wife Naomi in 1961, he continued to prosper and was recommended to Worcestershire where he was signed to play professionally in 1964.
It was here, fearful about his age being used to dissuade the club against hiring him, that he claimed he was actually three years younger than his real age of 30.
But that mattered little as his talent soon shone through following his arrival, according to Gifford, who considered D'Oliveira to be "one of the boys."
"When Basil arrived at Worcestershire, his transformation was outstanding," Gifford said.
"I captained him and he would do anything you wanted when he went out on that field.
"He was one of the players that when I look back over my career, I wish that I had seen him play when he was 20 or 21.
"Coming from South Africa was a big change for him, of course it was but I think his wife, Naomi, was a huge help for him.
"But throughout my time at Worcester, he didn't talk a lot about apartheid or how hard it was or had been on him, his friends or family.
"He didn't focus on it. He just became a Worcestershire lad and lived here for the rest of his life."
It was at Worcestershire that D'Oliveira began to make his name, scoring a century on his county championship debut before helping it win the league title that season.
Having become the first non-white South African to play county cricket, D'Oliveira was now targeting the next stage -- international cricket. That opportunity came in 1966, where having qualified as a British citizen, he was selected to make his debut against West Indies.
At Lord's, universally accepted as the "Home of Cricket," D'Oliveira made 27 runs and took two wickets in the drawn second Test. From there on in there was no looking back as D'Oliveira hit form.
Scores of 76 and 88 followed against West Indies before he made his maiden Test match century against India at Headingley in June 1967.
His successes against India and then later, Pakistan, saw him given the prestigious honor of being named one of the five Wisden cricketers of the year.
But it was on the 1968 Ashes tour that D'Oliveira would make his name, hitting an impressive 87 in the opening Test before the first chapter in a distasteful story began to surface.
With the 1968-69 tour of South Africa coming up on the horizon, there was a group of members within the MCC who were embarrassed at the prospect of including D'Oliveira. Instead, to prevent any chance of that happening, he was inexplicably dropped from the team until receiving a last-minute call for the final Test.
It was the chance D'Oliveira had been waiting for -- the opportunity to make it impossible to leave him out of the touring party. His 158 helped England win the match, draw the series and propel him to the top of the Test averages for the season.
Walking off the field that day, the world believed D'Oliveira had booked his place on the tour -- what happened next was an episode of great embarrassment to English cricket, with the MCC accused by Arlott of having "never made a sadder, more dramatic or more potentially damaging selection."
A media storm erupted with the MCC heavily lambasted for failing to stand up to apartheid and bowing the racist regime. While D'Oliveira grieved privately, the rest of the country rallied around "Dolly" and protested against his treatment.
"I thought at the time I would be accepted," he told the BBC in an interview on April 3, 1969.
"I thought they would accept the side. I think if it had been anybody else -- if it had been a West Indian, or an Indian or a Pakistani, or an Aborigine or a Maori -- they would have accepted him.
"I think I was too close to home ... it was too near to home for them to accept me as a member of the team."
The furore surrounding the affair shocked the MCC into action and on September 16 it responded, replacing the injured Tom Cartwright with D'Oliveira. It was greeted by opponents of apartheid as a groundbreaking moment.
But D'Oliveira's inclusion was ridiculed by the South African government, which forced the MCC to cancel the tour after insisting it would not allow him to play.
"I think the importance of Basil D'Oliveira was that he educated ordinary people who until then had instinctively sympathized with white South Africa about the sheer horror and nastiness of the racist regime," Peter Oborne, author of "Basil D'Oliveira. Cricket and Conspiracy: The untold story" told CNN.