WORCESTERSHIRE'S hopes of a triumphant 2000 season have been hit by news that Australian pace ace Glenn McGrath's appearances will be restricted because of international duties.

The 29-year-old fast bowler will miss the County's first three Benson and Hedges Cup matches and will also be absent during part of August because the Aussies are fixing up one-day games in South Africa and Sri Lanka.

New Road secretary Mike Vockins said today: "We are aware of these matches, but we have not had confirmation of the situation from the Australian Cricket Board.

"If they are confirmed our view is that it will be a bit like the Tom Moody situation at the end of last season.

"However, Glenn McGrath for 80 per cent of the season is still more valuable than a lesser player all of the time."

With the Aussies arranging one-day matches in South Africa, McGrath looks set to miss the County's Benson and Hedges Cup clashes against Northamptonshire (away, April 15), Glamorgan (home, April 16) and Gloucestershire (home, April 18).

Their other two group games are both away, at Somerset on April 21 and at rivals Warwickshire three days later.

McGrath's absence during part of August is due to the Australians proposed programme of one-day games in Sri Lanka.

New Road has been buzzing ever since it was announced that the Aussie World Cup star will play for the County next year and in 2002 leaving 2001 free for him to tour England with his country.

Last season Worcestershire had to do without Moody on a number of occasions because of his international duties for Australia.

Firstly, he was required for the World Cup and then later in the campaign he rejoined the Aussies for a triangular tournament in Sri Lanka.

The length of McGrath's likely absence during August is not yet known although Worcestershire will be anxious for it to be as short as possible.

That month they face four County Championship mat-ches and four National League fixtures.

The semi-finals and final of the NatWest Trophy are also scheduled for August.

Worcestershire are still on the look-out for a batsman following the departure of Moody last season.