England are on the verge of a first Test win for almost a year, but at close of play on his birthday James Anderson still seemed unable to resist a party-piece contretemps with the opposition.

Even Friday's looming International Cricket Council disciplinary hearing, on a Level 3 charge for allegedly "abusing and pushing" Ravindra Jadeja, failed to deter England's famously grumpy fast bowler from apparently 'ear-bashing' India batsman Ajinkya Rahane as the teams left the field on day four of the third Investec Test.

Anderson had marked his 32nd birthday with a first-innings haul of five for 53 at the Ageas Bowl, to help England into a position where they need only six more wickets on the final day to level the series at 1-1.

But after Alastair Cook (70no) and Joe Root (56) had then helped England set a world-record target of 445 - and England reduced India to 112 for four - Anderson was spotted chuntering to the opposition by umpire Rod Tucker.

A ticking-off then came his way in return.

Root could offer no more details of events as he reflected on an otherwise excellent, if overdue day for English cricket.

"I wasn't aware that was at all the case," he said, at the suggestion Anderson had been at the centre of any ill-feeling.

"I'm sure it was absolutely nothing."

Anderson has often appeared to thrive by surrounding himself with an aggressive atmosphere on the pitch.

Root added: "It is obviously massive.

"Not only does he bring that, he brings his stats as well....(England's) leading wicket-taker across all formats.

"He's had it [aggression] all his career. He's done it fantastically well, and continued to take wickets."

There was no particular birthday feelgood factor either.

Asked if Anderson was more genial than usual, Root said: "No, he's grumpy because he's a year older."

India opener Shikhar Dhawan was already out when Anderson and Rahane had their disagreement.

When he was told about it later, he said: "That's normal. If he had words with him....it's normal in cricket.

"It happens sometimes....you just get on with it."

Any late aggro apart, England had much to smile about after putting themselves in such a strong position for a first Test win in 11 matches.

"I think as days of cricket go, that's one you want to have," said Root.

"To get the two early wickets we did was fantastic, and then a lot of credit has to go to Cookie - the way he set the game up with the bat, and the way he judged his innings was pretty much down to a tee.

"We wanted to have a good session at them tonight, and give ourselves a good score on the board.

"The way he played meant that guys like me, Ian (Bell) and Gary (Ballance) could be a bit more free at the other end.

"He won't get a lot of credit from a lot of people, but we know in our dressing room how big that was for us."

It was the spinners, rather than Anderson, who helped eke out England's evening wickets - along with an initial run-out.

Root added: "To go on and take four wickets was fantastic.

"We wanted to get at least a couple, but to make such good inroads was really pleasing.

"It's good to see a lot of guys back into form. Jimmy's got a 'five-for' under his belt, Ian with a big one and Cookie with back-to-back 50s.

"Now, pretty much everyone has contributed over the summer.

"We're really hungry for a win. It's been a long time now.

"That's all we're really bothered about."

Dhawan's assessment of conditions can only give England extra confidence that they can finish the job.

"The wicket has turn in it, and it's seaming a bit as well because of the rough patches," he said.

"It's not easy to bat on. Some balls are seaming, some keeping straight, sometimes turning.

"When you get out to a good one, you can't do much about it.

"It's going to be a bit hard....so we're going to (have to try) to build a big partnership."