Karachi:  Three Pakistan cricketers at the centre of match-fixing allegations returned home from London early yesterday.

Salman Butt, Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif, who have been provisionally suspended by the International Cricket Council (ICC), flew into Lahore where a large crowd, made up of both protesters and supporters, and a heavy police presence awaited them.

The three players, who were interviewed by London's Metropolitan Police as part of an enquiry into allegations of spot-fixing during Pakistan's tour of England, left the airport through a back door and were driven away in waiting vehicles.

Waiting crowds

Television pictures showed crowds waiting outside the terminal, some carrying banners in support of the players and others waving placards accusing them of disgracing the nation. Some people carried shoes in their hands.

A large contingent of police was at the airport to avoid a repeat of the scenes last week when Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman, Ijaz Butt, was jeered and heckled on his return home.

Pakistan's interior minister Rehman Malek told the media that the three players were able to fly home after giving assurances that they would return to Britain if needed.

"We have given Scotland Yard surety that if required the cricketers will be available for further investigations," Malek said.

The players were accused in a Sunday newspaper of fixing incidents in matches, such as deliberately bowling no-balls. They say they are innocent.

A fourth player, left-arm pace bowler Wahab Riaz, who is still in England and with the one-day squad, is due to be questioned by Scotland Yard on Tuesday over the allegations.