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.
"Basil was such a decent, unassuming and honest man that it seemed outrageous that he should not be allowed to play in his own country.
"The D'Oliveira affair of 1968 therefore marked the breaking off of English cricketing relations with South Africa and in led in due course to the complete sporting isolation of South Africa."
While disappointed at not being able to play cricket in his homeland, D'Oliveira continued to prosper. When South Africa's tour in 1970 was canceled, he performed admirably against a Rest of the World side before going on to play a starring role in England's Ashes win in Australia. His innings of 117 helped save the match at Melbourne and underline his credentials as a leading international player.
He played his final Test in 1972 at the age of 41, against Australia, bringing down the curtain on an international career which had seen him win 44 caps, score 2,484 runs and five centuries at an average of 40.06, while taking 47 wickets at 39.55 runs apiece.
D'Oliveira continued to play for another eight years at Worcestershire, finally retiring in 1980 before taking up a coaching role where he led the county to the title in 1988 and 1989.
His death on November 19, 2011, following a slow decline with Parkinson's disease, was met with great sadness, but Gifford is adamant that D'Oliveira's legacy must live on.
"England and South Africa play for the Basil D'Oliveira trophy in his memory, which is wonderful," he said.
"But we also want to set up a foundation in his name to help young South African cricketers come over here and play county cricket.
"Basil was lucky in the fact that he got out and was given the opportunity to play in England. But just think how many others missed out and how many talented kids never got the chance to show they could play at the highest level.
"We want to make sure they get that chance."