It was the letter which changed a life. In the summer of 1960, D'Oliveira flew to England to play club cricket in Lancashire with Middleton after the black community of Cape Town came together to pay for his flight.
Life in England was tough at the start, emphasized by his experience of being late out of Heathrow airport after wandering around looking for the "non-white" exit, as he later recalled.
The fact that he could sit with white people in pubs, be served by white people in restaurants and not have to adhere to racist laws flummoxed him to start with.
The English weather also played its part, the cold and rain made were difficult to adjust to and it took some time for his performances in the Central Lancashire League to turn around.
But improve they did with his batting averages topping those of the great West Indian all round Garry Sobers, an achievement which earned him a new two-year contract.
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.