Mar 04, 2009 at 01:35am IST

Sri Lankan team lived 25 mins of sheer terror

New Delhi: The beleaguered Sri Lanka players had a near death experience while on their way to resuming the second test match at the historic Gaddafi stadium in Lahore.

At 0845 hrs IST, barely a few hundred meters away from the Gaddafi stadium, the touring Sri Lankan team bus was ambushed by terrorists armed with assault rifles, grenades and even a rocket launcher. For 25 minutes, as the terrified team crawled on the floor of the bus, the terrorists threw grenades and fired their automatic guns at the bus. Policemen protecting the team fired back at the attackers but all the attackers escaped in the chaos.

All the Sri Lankan players escaped major injury but ace batsmen Thilan Samaraweera was shot in the leg and debut opener Tharanga Paranavitana in the chest.

Reserve umpire Ehsaan Raza was also critically injured.

Captain Jayawardane, Vice Captain Sangakara, pace spearhead Vaas and Spinner Ajanta Mendis sustained injuries as well.

Javaid Gavdede, the surgeon who treated the injured players said, “We received 12 patients, two of whom are Sri Lankan players Samaraweera and Tharanga. Samaraweera was wounded in the leg and Tharanga in the chest. By the grace of God both are in stable conditions and we have treated them."

The policemen providing security for the cricketers were not as lucky. Five of them died in the gun battle which also killed two pedestrians.

The escaping terrorists left behind their weapons including bombs that were defused later. This is a clear indication that the attack would have been much bigger in magnitude if they had been able to execute it fully.

Mohd Ali, a police constable said, “Suddenly heavy firing broke out. I was afraid and started praying.”

The Lankans owe their life to the wits of the bus driver, who rushed them to safety through a hail of bullets.

Mehar Mohammad Khalil. The bus driver said, “Just as we approached the Gulbarga main roundabout in a cool manner, suddenly a hail of bullets began coming onto us.”

For the Lankans, what would normally have been yet another run on the Gaddafi greens, was a dash for the safety of a flight back home.

The emergency evacuation of the team in a military helicopter marked a grim but definite end to Sri Lanka's tour of Pakistan.