COLOMBO: Sri Lanka's wounded and shaken cricketers returned home Wednesday to tearful hugs from their relatives, saying they were lucky to be alive after a deadly attack on their team bus in Pakistan.
"There were just these images of life flashing through my mind -- all the while bullets were being sprayed at our bus, people around me were shouting," spin maestro Muttiah Muralitharan recalled.
"I am glad to be back," he said, hugging his Indian wife Madhi Malar.
Sports Minister Gamini Lokuge welcomed the side's safe arrival under tight security at Colombo airport.
"I never thought I will be able to come home alive," admitted skipper Mahela Jayawardene as he was greeted by his relieved wife Christina.
Batsmen Thilan Samaraweera and Tharanga Paranavitana, who were both treated in hospital in Pakistan, were among the first of the 25-member touring party to leave the airport to be taken to a private hospital in Colombo.
"Both of them may need further treatment and surgery," said Geethanjana Mendis, a sports medicine specialist who travelled to Pakistan to assess the wounded before their return flight.
He said the entire team needed medical evaluation while some would require more care, although none of the injuries were life threatening.
A total of seven players and an assistant coach were hurt in Tuesday's gun and grenade ambush in the Pakistani city of Lahore which left six policemen and two civilians dead.
Spin bowler Ajantha Mendis left the chartered aircraft with a plaster behind his right ear.
Vice-captain Kumar Sangakkara, another of the wounded, told reporters that the players were "relieved to be back home."
The parents of injured medium pace bowler Suranga Lakmal embraced and cried when their son walked out of the airport lounge.
"He is our only son. We have not eaten anything since we heard the news," his father Albert said.
Before leaving Pakistan, Jayawardene extended his gratitude to their driver for possibly saving the team, who were being escorted to the Gaddafi stadium for the third day's play of the second Test.
"We owe the team bus driver our lives for his remarkable bravery in the face of direct gunfire," he said in a statement.
"Had he not had the courage and presence of mind to get the bus moving after the initial attack then we'd have been a far easier target for the terrorists."
Jayawardene expressed the team's "deepest and heartfelt condolences" to the families of those killed.
Sri Lanka agreed to tour Pakistan despite the high security risk.
They replaced India, who refused to go following the deadly Mumbai assault in November which Indian authorities blame on a Pakistani militant group.
Sri Lanka won a three-match one-day series 2-1 in February, when everything passed off without mishap.
They returned to play a two-Test series, drawing the first game in Karachi last week in what was Pakistan's first Test match in 14 months.
Assistant coach Paul Farbrace told the BBC how he discovered that he was bleeding.
"There was a lot of shouting and people hitting the floor and when I got to the floor I realised the blood that I could see was coming from me -- luckily superficial wounds," Farbrace said.
While there has been no claim of responsibility, some Sri Lankan officials fear a link with an ongoing military offensive against Tamil Tiger rebels in the island's north.
Others blame Pakistani Islamist militants or Al-Qaeda.