Johannesburg:Zimbabwe will make its Test cricket comeback with a home series against Bangladesh next May.
Zimbabwe withdrew from Tests in January 2006 after being left depleted following confrontations between senior players and the Zimbabwe Cricket board.
Board chairman Peter Chingoka announced the return on Saturday during a visit by International Cricket Council president David Morgan and chief executive Haroon Lorgat.
"We will resume our Test commitments against Bangladesh at home in May 2011," Chingoka told The Associated Press. "We will then have gradual progression afterwards by playing sides we think we can compete with, like West Indies and New Zealand."
Chingoka also told The AP that Cricket South Africa has offered Zimbabwe a one-off Test every year, starting next year.
"We are indebted to Cricket South Africa for their continuous support," he said.
The long-serving ZC boss believes the Zimbabwe team will rise up to the challenge of Test demands.
"We are improving all the time," he said. "We now have a strong first-class structure. Our player base has broadened. With the results we've been posting, our players are beginning to show indication of maturity."
The ICC agreed Zimbabwe was ready to return to Test cricket after implementing the recommendations of an ICC task force which visited Zimbabwe in November 2008. Chief among them were re-establishing a credible domestic championship, elect an inclusive ZC board, and achieve better results in one-day internationals, Twenty20s, and four-day games.
Thanks mainly to gradual improvements on the political and economic fronts, Zimbabwe cricket has recovered, and ICC boss Morgan said the task force recommendations have been put into operation by ZC.
"This is my third visit to Zimbabwe and I take great pleasure in the number of smiling faces around Zimbabwe Cricket," Morgan said. "It is very comforting for the ICC to observe the improvement and success of the Zimbabwe team in recent months.
"It is also very good from an ICC perspective to see former players returning to the squad and also taking up support roles around the team. The recent results have been a good story for the Zimbabwe cricket team and the ICC is pleased to have played a part in that progress."
Former national captains Dave Houghton (technical director), Alistair Campbell (head selector) and Heath Streak (bowling coach) have been roped into the technical structures in recent months with former Test batsman Grant Flower also set to join as batting coach in September.
Zimbabwe received Test status in 1992, and won eight of 83 Tests.